On February 19, I did something I've never attempted before, going to two school board meetings in one night.  I was able to do this because the Ludington Area School District (LASD) meets at 6 PM every third Monday of the month, and Mason County Eastern (MCE) meets at 7:30 PM.  This allowed me to compare the two, again something I haven't done before.  

L to R:  MCE Trustees and Officers, Corliss Gulembo, VP Dan Bacon, President Mark Mickevich, Superintendent Paul Shoup, HSSBM Jude Mickevich, Curt Stewart, Ryan Howe

MCE 

The Ludington Torch's first trip to MCE for their school board meeting happened just a little over a week ago for a special meeting that lasted a couple of hours and impressed us in many ways as to how they honestly confronted a controversial issue and worked through it.  Since that meeting, the treasurer resigned and reportedly enrolled her child in MCC and the district had started the search for an athletic director.  

Accordingly, finding replacements for the vacancies was the major issue this evening and only one other item was on the agenda for action which was to discuss using the leftover ESSER III funds which should be used by the end of the upcoming school year.  The latter was left more for future meetings since the superintendent wanted to just introduce the fact that those funds were still there needing to be used or lost.  

Surprisingly, they didn't elect anybody to be the replacement treasurer, perhaps waiting to see what skills the new trustee they needed to choose before March 12th would have.  They decided after a lot of discussion to allow people to apply for the position until the end of February, They would then interview candidates on March 5th and choose the trustee on March 6 if more than one person applies, this happens to be the night of the first district game in boys' basketball.

A dozen or so were in attendance, but only a couple would participate.  In public comment, "Suzie" hoped the board could look at their current 'three-week rule' for eligibility and change it to be more forgiving and look at addressing the student body to let them know what is actually going on because she believes there are a lot of rumors floating about.  The board was non-committal.  SRO Jake Lesinski gave a report explaining his attempts to encourage students to be leaders and to make good choices.  He was busy organizing an event that would allow students to interact with folks in skilled trades. 

This reporter ran into Lesinski at the courthouse last week when we were both there for the hearing involving Sebastian Cooper and he was there just in case the plea deal fell through.  Things almost got uncomfortable when he approached me, since I questioned how the MCE incident was handled in this article which he was familiar with, but he wisely and calmly said that "I think we have the same goals".  I have to admit that I honestly think we do, and I hope he can stay true to those goals if or when his fellow deputies try to change them.

Jude Mickevich was chosen as the High School Student Board Member (HSSBM) due to his recent success in bowling and his involvement with other pursuits in extracurricular activities.  He gave a report from the student body perspective on recent events and it was noted that MCE has at least 25 students involved in three or more sports and they have been recognized in a booklet.

During Superintendent Shoup's report, he indicated that in the future the school may see new traffic controls in the school zone that would make it easier for those who need to cross State Street (US 10) by having lights that would activate during the times when school is starting and ending, notifying vehicle traffic to slow down to 25 mph:

While this has been on the planning stage for a while, the state hasn't generally been a fan of the action and may decide against it since most of the foot traffic to and from the school is to the south and they're loth to make a 55-mph highway slow down to 25 mph without a very solid reason.

The board was a bit more relaxed this time around without the controversies in the background and now that that's mostly in the rearview they showed good resolve and underlying chemistry in pressing on to fill the empty spots left over from the battle.

LASD

The LASD Board's agenda had nine action items, but they were mostly on reflex, and the first seven were quickly discussed and voted on with only one dissension among the board who were all present.  Trustee Scott Foster would vote against NEOLA policy changes (see p, 44 of agenda) to the policies because of the recent changes to the Public Employee Relations Act, he would not explain why as the rest of the board approved them.  

Otherwise, it was purchases that ruled the business of the meeting:  1) they used $1.15 million of the 2019 bond for constructions, 2) They purchased McGraw Hill Social Studies textbooks for $88K (all grades), 3) Approved auditorium lighting bids for $300K, 4) Approved a furniture purchase of $62K for the MS/HS building, and 5) Approved baseball field updates worth $153K. 

After recognizing Carleen Shinn for her ability to corral 80 kindergarteners to sing all at once with a Soaring Oriole Award, the board also set the school of choice window for Ludington to be August 1st, unchanged from this last year since it seemed to work better than waiting through the first week of school.  When they had done all of that, they voted to go into closed session to evaluate the superintendent's performance over the last year.  They may have shared that afterwards, but I had places to go out east.  

However, before the closed session commenced and just after Principal Forsberg gave a report on various topics, there was one public comment on a familiar theme and with a familiar face, mine.  It's a problem which the school board doesn't seem to understand how important it is, nor do they seem to want to solve it, they just want it to continue to fester and get infected even more.

XLFD:  "Allow me to touch upon the due process issue I've brought before the board a few times this school year, relating to a mother who was trespassed by school staff for a year from going to athletic events for her alleged behavior at a practice.  Her behavior at worst could have been said to be loud, argumentative or boisterous, but I think we could all agree that it was protected speech and that any punishment should be proportional to the perceived infraction. 

The process used in this case was not supported by school bylaws or the constitution.  On the basis of another mother's complaint alone, the new school resource officer drafted a letter of trespass restricting her from coming to athletic events in Ludington for the rest of the year.  Principal Hart signed it, and so once it was served on her, she had the school-sanctioned threat of being arrested for a misdemeanor should she come to an athletic event her children might be taking part it.  She was given no mechanism for appealing this ruling made strictly on the basis of hearsay from a hostile witness. 

When I was taking basic civics back in my days of matriculating through the local public school system, a little over a decade ago... we were taught about due process and how the process used by two government entities here was not the American way of having due process.  Your own bylaws give students basic due process rights when they are suspended, rights that were never afforded to this woman undebatably acting within her First Amendment rights on school grounds. 

So I will continue to bring this issue up, until I get some kind of action or answer from this board that affirms her right to due process, because it becomes an issue to me when parents aggrieved by unilateral actions of school staff as what happened here take their own legal actions to correct the school's violations of their basic rights.  You have the power to annul this unlawfully imposed letter of trespass tonight with a simple motion made and a vote to do what's right to correct a bad act by staff over-asserting their authority.  Ignoring it sends a message to parents about how the school will not only treat them, but their children in similar circumstances [END comment].

SRO Conor Gallihugh of the LPD was present and failed to approach me at any time after this meeting to suggest that our goals were the same, and they aren't, since I believe mothers have an inalienable right to see their children play school sports and not have themselves or their children be bullied and belittled.

To their credit, Trustee Foster and Superintendent Kyle Corlett have discussed the issue in person or via email with me and the mother.  These two are usually more perceptive than their peers, but they seem to be caught up with the mother's behavior, which was nothing more than her non-threateningly chiding other children for bullying her son and starting rumors.  Perhaps if the coach that got in her face and yelled had taken care of such issues himself, she wouldn't have had to step in and be the better man.  

The issue won't quietly go away at the end of the school year, unless the LASD Board starts listening and understanding the issue involved as a problem they need to solve or resolve.  The MCE school board and superintendent had the ingenuity, compassion, and humility to solve a similar problem, sacrificing an athletic director and eventually a trustee in the process.  LASD and LPD officials have sacrificed a mother and her son to create a long-term, major problem for the district.  Which board did it better?

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Thanks for that excellent report X.

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