Several Surprises at ELPS Board Meeting This Week

Wednesday, January 15, 2020, 8:15 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

The East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education met for the first time this year on Monday night, and while the meeting lasted less than an hour, it included a number of surprises.

Nichole Martin loses her officer position, and Chris Martin gains one:

During the election of officers, Nichole Martin (above) was ousted from her position as Vice President, with no explanation provided. The vote was 5-1, with Nichole Martin voting against the change and Hillary Henderson arriving at the meeting too late to vote.

Erin Graham will continue in her role as President and Kath Edsall in her role as Treasurer. But Terah Chambers has now moved from the position of Secretary to Vice President, replacing Nichole Martin, and Chris Martin is taking over as Secretary.

Nichole Martin has not responded to request for comment. (Update: Read a statement from Martin here.)

New contracts in an effort to get the new Glencairn and Donley schools finished:

Another surprise item came with the approval of minutes from a Special Meeting on December 27, which we didn’t know had happened.

On December 27, with the required minimum of four members in attendance, the Board approved contracts to try to get the remaining work finished on the new Donley and Glencairn Elementary buildings.

We reported earlier in December that various elements of those buildings are still not complete. Superintendent Dori Leyko told the Board on Monday night that Glencairn is still lacking gutters and downspouts, creating frozen pools in areas where people need to walk, and that an external wall of the Donley gym is covered in exposed Tyvek.

She said the District is working on “getting everybody mobilized” to get the work finished.

As part of her update on the new-schools bond, Leyko said bid requests were going out for the construction of the new Marble school building and for “phase 2” of Red Cedar School renovation.

She noted that the bond work group has a public meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, in the Hub at East Lansing High School. Citizens can present comments and ask questions at that meeting.

Marble families will get busing to Donley next year:

The Marble school building will be demolished and a new building constructed next year, with the population of Marble using the old Donley school for 2020-21. At Monday’s meeting, Edsall announced that Leyko had told her via text message that families living in the catchment basis for Marble will be offered busing to Donley in recognition of the danger of children crossing Saginaw Street.

In response, Nichole Martin noted that for those who want to walk — for example, via “walking school buses” — there are several challenges getting from Saginaw Street north to Donley because of absent or inadequately cleared sidewalks.

Resident student enrollment surges unexpectedly:

In his presentation on the first revision to the current academic year’s budget, Director of Finance Richard Pugh said that the student population had unexpectedly surged above projections, chiefly because of an increase of secondary-level students who live in the District. The total District enrollment is up 93 students over the prior year and 88 over the projection for this year.

The total student resident (that is, students living in the ELPS District) Fall 2019 enrollment was up to 2,873 out of a total enrollment of 3,696, putting resident enrollment at about 77.7 percent of the total.

That’s the highest number of resident students since 2003 and the highest percentage of the total student population since 2009.

Responding to a question from Chambers, Pugh said that the enrollment increase — which led to extra funding from the State - “impacted what we were able to do for our employees” in terms of the special one-time bonus recently awarded by the District.

Pugh called the budget situation “very positive,” noting, “we basically have a balanced budget, which is very encouraging.” He also noted that the school has a general fund balance of about $6 million, putting the fund balance at about 14.2 percent as a percentage of total expenditures — a strong number.

Two policy changes go through, but one is held back:

At the meeting, the Board also passed two of three policy changes that had been expected at this meeting.

One of the two that passed allows longer suspensions if a disciplinary hearing is pending. Graham said the policy is not in any way intended to keep a student out of school any longer than need be, but is rather aimed at giving the superintendent more time to gather information before allowing a student facing a disciplinary hearing to return to school.

The other is a policy disallowing door-to-door fundraising sales. Chambers had previously said that the concern behind this change was the hostility met by some African American students in other districts when they were soliciting for school fundraisers through door-to-door sales.

Trustee Kate Powers asked if student groups had been consulted about this. Chambers answered no and said that the committee charged with reviewing this policy had spoken with ELPS Athletic Director Nikki Norris, because the biggest concern was the football team.

She also said that the biggest concern raised had been about the annual ELBOPA “Night Out” fundraiser, but that that event was not prohibited by the new policy because that is “not a fundraiser on its face,” is not done steadily door-to-door, and “doesn’t meet the spirit of what we’re talking about” in terms of student safety.

Lekyo clarified that students can still sell products to friends and neighbors as part of a fundraising campaign, but that they can’t be asked to sell door-to-door to strangers.

The Board did not take up the question of whether to adopt a policy that would end the practice of taking away recess time as a form of punishment for bad behavior. According to Chambers, that issue is being held off until a later meeting.

The video for Monday’s meeting can be viewed here, and the agenda packet here.

 

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