LASD Board Meeting, August 21, 2023: Not Quite Obscene, Just Crumby

The agenda packet for the August 21, 2023 meeting of the Ludington Area School District (LASD) had some meaningful content for the school year, they would approve the contract for the new high school principal, Scott Forsberg, a promotion from being the district's assistant principal for the same building, and approved Frank Marietti, formerly of Ravenna School administration, to fill Forsberg's vacancy.  

They also approved a 3% raise across the board for union (LEA) members and granted the same raises to all non-union staff, including administrative staff.  This could explain why there was an awful lot of school staff in attendance, but it didn't quite explain why the resource officer (Austin Morris) attended in full uniform and Chief Jones of the LPD was in attendance.  If they were there to intimidate Scott Foster after three city councilors showed up at the last meeting to unprofessionally declare that Foster had done something unprofessional in weighing in on a public issue, they would have left once they saw he was the only board member absent.

Nothing else requiring action on the agenda (setting school meal rates, keeping tax rates the same and purchasing a couple of vans for $156,000 to use mainly for sporting event transport) merited much interest and wouldn't elicit any comment from the public.  The Unbounded program was a matter for discussion, and this would have four people comment on same. 

Yet a couple of other items came up first.  Dan Bush, an athletic booster, lamented that the brick-and-mortar project of the basketball court east of the middle school that the LHS All-Sports Booster Club erected a mere 17 years ago had been a victim of the reconstruction of the middle and high schools.  Warren Stowe would echo the sentiment in adding that the recent net loss of athletic facilities in the district due to replacing four gyms in the elementary grades with just one at the new elementary school.  

But beyond a request by a baseball coach asking the board to use a baseball diamond (he was directed to go through administration for that) and Jason Wolven with the perennial well-taken complaint about how the board room was oriented.  Daniel Jensen spoke of KOSA, the Kids Online Safety Act, as mostly a good thing to prevent kids from logging into potentially harmful websites without verifying their ages.  

This organically led into my own comment, which I indicated at the last meeting would be to read adult material into the record, provided by the local library to not only me, but for children at the Ludington Elementary.  I presumed that the local police were in attendance in order to escort me out if I read a particularly nasty passage from one or more such books, or flashed a picture or two from graphic novels that are readily available to ten-year-olds through the Unbounded program. 

Before this meeting and at a committee meeting last week, Superintendent Corlett worked with me enough to make me reconsider this tactic for now, indicating that the school would consider something along the lines of internet filters for age-inappropriate books.  If there isn't any action items dealing with correcting the issue at the next meeting, there very well could be some adult material at the next meeting, so leave the kids at home.  I also felt the need to lecture the board on a relevant issue dealing with the new Oriole Field being that it is August and hot weather on fake turf is more unsafe than ever.

XLFD:  "I know I promised the board a special story time where I would read various books available to 5th grade students in the elementary through the Unbounded program and let you judge for yourself  whether the words and the images were appropriate for our 10-year-old children or had a place in an elementary school environment.  Superintendent Corlett reminded me of the school's rules for public comment, attached to the agendas, that say the presiding officer may terminate a person's comments if they deem it as obscene, and since I consider the material I was to read as at least bordering on the obscene, I decided at this point not to challenge the authority of Chairman Carlson to take such an action were I to read from these books and show blown-up pictures from the graphic novels.  

I have made this decision not from fear of censure, however, but due to hope for a better policy and memorandum of understanding between the school and district library that recognizes potential harms of inappropriate material to children and recognizes parental involvement with their own child's education and development.  I see that it is a topic of discussion tonight, and I have had a promising overture from the superintendent acceding the point that a means of protecting children from harmful material could be developed along the lines of the filters we use for internet sites and the rating system we use for movies and TV programs.  

I look forward to seeing a workable plan from the district and hope to see a memo of understanding that incorporates this plan agreed to by the library for not only this district but for Custer and MCC too.  If nothing substantive gets done, school board story time will be coming back and if Chairman Carlson finds it obscene enough to terminate my comment, the point will be made clear to all. 

Lastly, permit me an observation.  If you saw a young child or dog alone in the backseat of a parked car in 80 degree weather, windows rolled down, engine off, you would likely intervene in order to get them out, noting that the temperature inside will increase to 100 degrees after ten minutes, to 115 degrees after 30 minutes.  Yet you have purchased Astroturf which when the temperature is 80 degrees the on-the-field temperature is 140 degrees, 25 degrees more than the parked car, and you put our healthy children out in that.  Worse, temperatures over 130 degrees degrade and vaporize the crumb rubber in these fields into unhealthy levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon vapors which our healthy children will be breathing throughout their practice or game.  You see a pristine athletic field, I see a hazardous shredded tire landfill." [END comment]

I went to the varsity football game last night against the Petoskey Northmen.  I was recognized by a Ludington coach who flippantly told me not to get too close to the field or I could get cancer.  Fortunately for our young men in the program, the air temperature had dropped to 72 degrees and it was windy and cloudy.  That didn't protect them from the turf entirely, up to three of our boys went down, one for several minutes, with what appeared to be contact with the sometimes-unforgiving turf.  Ludington fell 32-14 to a school that hasn't had a winning season since 2015 on the inaugural game of their new fake field.

But I wasn't alone in my criticisms of the imperfect Unbounded program.  Another commenter (who I will provide anonymity to) prefixed her comment like I have before by saying the program was useful by providing extra resources for school projects, but she noted that every title in the district library is available to our students in the 5th-12th grade and some of the material is not suitable for the ages, Amazon has 18 years plus as the age to read and understand the graphic novel Gender Queer.  

She and others in attendance who did not speak (that I met after the meeting) had similar perspectives.  The discussion in the meeting had our library friend Emily Garland give a presentation that showed how Unbounded worked, for the kids section only.  She told some whoppers, one by saying that no parents had opted out of the program, which is untrue from the records I have from the school. One wonders how even anybody opted-out given the various literature the parents would receive.  To the board's credit, they did ask some questions after the presentation, but I could not easily discern whether this wasn't part of a staged event.  If the topic isn't in the action items of their next meeting, it will verify this as stagecraft.  

In conclusion of the meeting, they went into closed session under section 8(h) of the Open Meetings Act (OMA).  That section allows a board go into closed session "to consider material exempt from discussion or disclosure by state or federal statute."  There is no mention of any privilege in the OMA.  They can look at a document prepared by their attorney for a specific legal purpose if the board actively declares that attorney-client privilege, or if it is directly understandable from the nature of the document that such privilege exists. 

They offered nothing here, and the superintendent would inform me that they not only had a written document, they also had an attorney join the closed session, without ever inviting him into the session as a participant.  I was given absolutely no idea what this secret, illegal session was all about.  This isn't how school boards facilitate trust in the citizens and parents in their district, spending a lot of dollars to import their attorney in to discuss secrets they withhold from the taxpayers paying for all of it.  

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X, you have me commenting on something I wouldn't normally (LASD), having to pick my fights due to time constraints, but you are starting to get similar hatred as Erin Brockovich did from the opposing side. The coach who told you not to get too close ... "you might get cancer ....." Did you have a good reply to him? That just shows how you are jangling nerves and bringing up a right cause ... AND HE KNOWS IT but bitterly verbalizes against you inspite of the truth.  Thanks for the report.  I was wondering how the game went.  Good job coach (not really, that's a sad loss)! Get your peace or Karma may get you.

And I appreciate you working with the Board on getting the smut out of the library.  Thanks for sparing us, too.  YOU are making a difference!

Congratulations on the Torch Anniversary!  Some day your enemies may bow before you! 

Thanks for taking the time to read, comprehend, and comment cogently on the topic at hand, there are so many demands on our time, particularly during this time of year when there's so much to do, so I appreciate your tithing of minutes to my articles.

I'm paying that time-generosity of yours forward as I write this:  I'm watching Erin Brockovich, I found it on the free app known as Tubi, so that i can better understand your references, and maybe learn a thing or two to help me as I go forth.  I've been suckered into watching some banal Julia Roberts rom-coms in the past, so I'm glad to say that this isn't one of those-- at least in the classical sense.  

I didn't have a good rejoinder for the coach, because it caught me off guard; I was leaning against the east fence near the opponent's bleachers to keep a low profile.  I had the same idea as you, it is taking space up in his head, which means that the information has been absorbed just like hexavalent chromium (EB reference) and maybe, just maybe, inroads can be made.  And maybe one day, I can be sincerely thanked for my concerns for our children's health, and for our environment, by those who currently think badly of me for those traits.

It may be best not to waste breath in reply to idiotic comments like those of the frustrated coach even if you had a good slinger. It may be best to stay above the fray. Time will prove you right

In my 15 years as XLFD, did I mention a local website is celebrating my sesquidecennial, I have developed a philosophy which observes that when it appears that I may have lost ground, it's actually that I have gained ground in the other direction. 

So when I go out golfing with a local semipro, it may appear that he is a much better golfer, because he gets it in the hole quicker than I do, but then I get much more exercise, more practice swinging, and when the strokes are tallied, my score is always higher.  Winning is a matter of perspective, which is why I am much more adaptive to matters where it appears that I have lost-- because I can justify that I have at the very least gained some humility, even if it wasn't the brass paperweight sought.

Thanks for attending the meeting and the report. The Coach proved that some people have more muscle than gray matter between their ears. He undoubtedly was pushing for this plastic mess covering Orial field from the beginning which shows just how ignorant he is and how he cares more about the appearance of the field than he does about the players health.  And that's about par for most of the schools representatives. We are living in a strange time when it's OK to poison children's minds with twisted pornography forced on kids against parents approval and any type of decency of right and wrong as well as poisoning the students and others with the polluted chemical soup called astro turf. Have these people gone mad? Can they be this stupid? What I don't understand is the lack of parents not showing up in force and demanding that their children's health, both mental and emotionally as well as physically be paramount in making decisions concerning their welfare. 

Do you think law enforcement was there to censor your comments? If that is true then you, we, all of us are in big trouble and can no longer rely on established normalcy anymore. As if we ever could, in recent memory in Ludville. It's not like the old days when parents were parents and the school system and employees worked with and for the people to actually educate the kids and not indoctrinate them with twisted morals and poison them with chemicals. 

 

I'd be fooling myself if I thought that Ludington and Scottville city officials, school officials and PMCT officials (and even county and library officials) weren't regular spectators on the Ludington Torch, so if the superintendent was actually ignorant of why LPD was there, maybe it was because they wanted a quick response to the meeting just in case it devolved into chaos from what the library assures us is valuable resources to our elementary school.  At least five other people were present who were against smut in the schools, one being Daniel Jensen, who comes across as even more of a free-wheeling sovereign-citizen-type than I am. 

I honestly think they were there so that they could get a stronger police report should I read and show pictures from some of the adult-themed crap your fifth grader has access to that has nothing to do with the school's written objectives.  

I forgot to mention in my recap that Board member Leona Ashley defended the one book under fire by the other speaker and by me at past meetings (Gender Queer), admitting she read the book with her children.  If I am to respect parent rights, I should be OK with that, and as long as she can provide some context to her kids of what's going on in this muddled biography, that's good.  But I would question why she would introduce this type of material to someone as young as 10 (her children appear to be teenagers), even if she could try to explain the bizarre behavior within, when there are so many good books out there and they are in a period of their life when they are trying to establish an identity.  

So, I appreciate her taking the time to read this controversial book to see whether it is as bad as portrayed, but I question her introduction of the material to immature young adults as effectively must-read material, and her lack of clarity as to whether there is an age that it's too early to read this graphic novel.

I'm waiting for the day when a opposing school football team says they will not allow their kids play on this field of cancer.

Would that ever happen?  Three teams in Ludington's 14 team conference have tinsel and crumb, and football coaches are notorious for not outwardly showing fear, so I find this unlikely but not impossible-- here's why.

Professional soccer teams don't like turf fields and it's not just because they are unsafe, lead to lower body injuries, or that cancer seems to develop among goalies who practice and play on turf at relatively young ages.  It just doesn't play all that well when you are a quality player.  That's why top world teams that play in the USA will usually insist on playing natural pitch stadiums, and if they are going to a stadium where Astroturf is, they take the time and cost to ship in some Bermuda grass sod squares to tessellate the field.

I sense that if an opposing coach came in and said they would not play on the turf, that it would be a soccer coach.  And that's too bad, because almost every play in a football game ends with one or more people hitting the ground.  At the Oriole's first soccer game I witnessed, a person was on the ground only 41 times.  This contact promotes high exposures to the crumb rubber, and its vapors (when warm enough). 

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