LASD Board Meeting, November 21, 2022: Sage Stuffing and Mashed Spuds

The agenda packet for the November 21, 2022 regular meeting of the Ludington School Board showed ten action items to take place and a couple presentations, so it was busy, if not very controversial.  A special meeting was held one hour before the regular meeting convened, where a disciplinary hearing was scheduled for a student. 

The board, minus members Steve Carlson and Josh Snyder, went into closed session for about 40 minutes before arriving back with a 'guilty verdict', subjecting the student to a suspension for the rest of the school year.  None of the details about the incident leading to suspension were revealed to the public for them to consider whether the decision or punishment was fair. 

It should be noted that in November 2021, a Ludington middle school student was suspended for a year when he talked to a fellow student about an airsoft gun he was planning to get before Christmas.  The school board was told by Principal Mike Hart in a memorandum that the student not only possessed a weapon but also made threats.  The investigation and associated videos showed neither of those assertions were true.  School Resource Officer Austin Morris committed perjury on an affidavit in order to search the home of the student incidental to an arrest of the student's father.  The officer has never been suspended for his actions.  Principal Hart has never offered a correction in his slander of the student, instead he was recently given an award for being a great principal in 2022.

I am hopeful that I will receive information about this incident through a public records request in order to show, without revealing the student's identity, whether the board has improved as a judiciary panel over its dismal performance last year.  {UPDATE:  I have received these records and will discuss what was found in a future article].

Citizen participation had Jason Wolven, who failed to get elected to the school board this year, commenting on the board's use of a projector screen at the back of the room forcing attendees to turn around and divide their attention between the screen and the speaker.  I then finished off that portion of the meeting by commenting on more than simple meeting logistics:

XLFD:  "First a question:  why are Neola policies routinely passed without the public being able to see the bylaws introduced or changed as written and presented?

At last November's regular meeting, this board agreed to sell the 1.5 city blocks that contained a fully functional Foster Elementary School for $20,000, a truly boneheaded move on this board's part considering that a conservative appraisal of the property was eleven times that amount.  They managed to keep this extremely bad real estate transaction from the public's knowledge until that meeting, much like the board kept their unanimous approval of allowing the school forest to be used by the City of Ludington's contracted killers for shooting deer with high-powered rifles at the last regular meeting. 

City residents will see their city hall spend nearly $20,000 per year, that's the value of Foster Elementary in your assessment, to pay snipers to violate standard hunting protocols in a jurisdiction that isn't even their's in a school forest where firearms and hunting are expressly forbidden.  State law mandates that school forest property can only be used for forestry or recreational purposes, but none of you supposedly learned pedants honored that law or your own bylaws which forbids the proposed deer cull in at least four ways.  

These bylaw standards were set by former school boards back when the school forest was remote from other school properties; now that the elementary school is inside that school forest, this board approved, without any restriction whatsoever, that hunters hired by the USDA wielding assault rifles and using a variety of unlawful hunting methods such as shooting out of vehicles and using bait piles, bait piles disallowed by the DNR to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease, can fire away freely and have tort immunity.  

If the unthinkable happens during this cull in your forest and the USDA asserts its tort immunity, guess who the injured party's lawyers will go after:  it will be the school board that violated state law and their own bylaws to approve this cull and the City that unwisely wasted the money on it.  If this permission to engage in risky behavior so close to our most precious resource, our kids, is not rescinded, prepare to face a court injunction that will ultimately have respect for the law win out."

The board considered how to correct Mr. Wolven's observation later, but they never related to my question of why they do not vote on the actual written word of their Neola policies.  One of the new bylaws passed looked like this in the packet:

The new policy is not presented as a bylaw, but as the sketch of what they want to do, the actual policy is bound to look a lot different than what was passed, and this goes for all policies they would pass as a group this evening.  As far as the deer cull issue and my pending injunction, the board as a whole ignored the issue except for Scott Foster who talked with me for about 15 minutes after the meeting to find out more about my position and perhaps influence me more towards his.  I appreciated his effort; however, he would not deny during that time that the school board was violating their own bylaws or state law, which is interesting since his regular job is in law enforcement.

Athletic Director Greg Pscodna presented a mostly successful lineup of good finishes for his teams and athletes.  Teamwise, Girls cross country, golf and volleyball along with Boys tennis and soccer, all finished first in their conference, while none finished lower than third.  Two attendees were recognized by the board:  Emma McKinley with stellar performances in golf and Summer Brower who still has a couple more years to improve her impressive running feats.  A complete list of achievements in athletics is on p. 24-25 of the agenda packet.

The report from LHS Principal Dan Mesyar and his assistant Peter Forsberg, showed that LHS held its own in the academic field as well, with them dominating SAT scores in comparison with similarly demographical school districts (noting every district still is not catching up to pre-pandemic levels).  

Administrative Assistant Jenny VanderVest was granted the Soaring Oriole award after the committee gave their reports.  Superintendent Kyle Corlett would joke that since the two Finance Committee members at their meeting last week were absent this day, that I would give their report since I was the only other one there besides himself.  

The board then went into its business, some of which was interesting:

- the board approved a staff retention bonus to all LASD full time staff of $500 (lowered for part-timers) coming from leftover ESSER funds.  Interestingly enough, this amount was introduced at the committee meeting as a $200 amount.  

- the board approved Unbound Library services offered by the Mason County District Library and currently being used by MCE Schools.  The board approved a letter of understanding with the library that was referenced, but not shared with the public.  I plan on doing further research into this.

- after a lot of discussion, the board approved a modified 'Sunday Facility Use' policy which would allow student athletes to practice Sunday afternoon in school facilities if they have an event on Monday, but also assure that athletes will have at least one day off each week.  Leona Ashley voted against the policy.  

- the board approved the sale of 510 Sixth Street, the original Ludington Skate Park since deserted, for $13,000, inside the range of values assessed for it.  The buyer indicated a single-family house would be put up on the lot.

- the board approved various Neola policies generally regarding flags, school visitors, vendors, etc.

- the board approved a 3-year stint in the West Michigan Health Insurance Pool, with Superintendent Corlett and Lauren Jacobs as signatories.  

- the board approved resurfacing a cracked centre court at the Schoenherr Tennis Courts paid for by a grant.

- the board approved the Spanish class' trip to Peru next spring

- the board approved both transportation breakroom work for $156,000 and the latest 2019 bond payment totaling just under $3 million. 

Lastly, they reminded the public that the next regular board meeting would take place on December 12, moved forward a week due to Christmas break concerns.  

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In light of the recent concerns with artificial turf being used for athletic fields, especially a type called split-film turf and the plan to switch from natural grass to an artificial turf at Oriole Field would the school board like to say what type of new turf they will be using?

New Research Supports NFLPA's Campaign Against Slit-Film Turf - Ins...

Injuries Related to Artificial Turf | National Center for Health Re...

It seems all forms of artificial turf have issues but differ in severity, and from a cost perspective replacing grass with artificial turf makes no financial sense.

I have a feeling that we won't know about what type of artificial turf and its cost until after they approve it (likely next year).  The couple of times it has been mentioned at meetings I have been at, it seems to have been embraced as a fait accompli.

I hope to advocate for grass at the next meeting or two in my public comment, it would be nice if student athletes and/or their parents would do the same, for I expect them to be used by the other side to argue for Astroturf if they sense resistance. 

That and you are paying for something (artificial turf) for 30-40 years that has a lifespan of 10 years.

Makes no fiscal sense.

Makes no sense from an ecological standpoint. Grass vs plastic.

And now makes no sense health wise for the players.

I agree with you Shinblind on all points. It just doesn't make sense at all. They try to justify it because it will take less to maintain it (irrigation, mowing, fertilizer, etc.) but it doesn't make sense in the long run and it isn't worth the increased risk of injury. This is an interesting read showing a strong preference by elite athletes choosing grass over plastic. https://www.safehealthyplayingfields.org/injuries-grass-vs-syntheti...

Just in case either of you missed it, I addressed this issue in February after noting a significant amount of cash will go towards resurfacing the turf $900,000 followed by $900,000 plus ten years of inflation at the end of the sinking fund's life in the early 2030s:  Fake Future of Ludington Football

Some good plastic turf salesman must have made quite an impression on Superintendent Kennedy, either that or they just were trying to find ways to push the bond proposal higher and fire a facilities maintenance contractor who was charging them exorbitant fees after the school chose them over the low bidder they had for years without major issue, Schmock's Landscaping.

Boston Mayor say's no to any artificial turf in the City due to.  PFAS  harmful  chemicals.

https://theintercept.com/2019/10/08/pfas-chemicals-artificial-turf-...

Good to know about possible PFAS in certain artifical turf. Thanks stump for the alert. Interesting study. Above is just one of many google search links.

Imagine the lawsuits to in the future from NFL players forced to play on PFAS-laden turf.

The school board is talking artificial turf and safety in their committees this week:  "GMB shared with us a report regarding safety of artificial turf fields and comparing the number of injuries between them and natural field services."

FYI, GMB is the architect/engineer of the schools $101 million bond projects and are guaranteed to get a significant cut from turfing the million-dollar Oriole Field.  No conflict of interest there to see.  The public isn't being offered the same view of their report or its 'statistics' as the school board is, it isn't included in the packets.  Funny, we offer reports and statistics here through our links, but a public agency does not when they plan to do their million-dollar field.

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