HARRISON – The May 12 meeting of the Harrison Community Schools Board of Education began with a public hearing on the HCS final amended budget for FY 2022-2023, and the proposed budget and appropriations for FY 2023-2024. Business manager Chad Hathcock gave a fairly detailed overview of the various governmental funding sources and the areas to which those funds would be allocated.
After the public hearing was closed and the regular monthly meeting opened, students from Harrison Little League led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Zac Driver, Harrison Little League president, offered a few informative comments on this year’s Little League season before he and his players had to bolt away to the fields.
“2023 as a season has been awesome!” Driver said. “With the help of a fantastic board and a very supportive community, we’ve managed to register over 220 kids this year. That includes two dozen kids that are new to Little League this year, not including T-Ball.”
Driver said those new players are either from families new to the community, or who were pulled in by their friends. He explained that the players were divided into 19 teams (which he said could have been more), but the larger number of teams will require more help and volunteers than the 40-plus who have served this year.
“We opened up the opportunity for managers, so that was a head coach, assistant coach and an opportunity for managers for some teams to register,” he said. “That helps support the teams – at the younger divisions it’s sometimes herding cats, but it’s been a blast.”
Driver said this would be the first year in quite some time that Harrison Little League would be sending a team to Districts.
“Which is a huge deal for us,” he said. “That’s in the 12U Divisional level. Overall, it’s just been a very exciting season to see some of the growth. We’ve had some great collaboration with the city that’s allowed us to see some improvements already with the fields, and if all goes well, even more to come. It’s been very exciting. We thank you for honoring us to have the kids here today and thank you for everything you do.”
Superintendent Judy Walton then provided an overview of the new updated dress code which can be found on the Harrison Community Schools website.
Under the Consent Agenda, the board moved to approve the May 15 special meeting minutes and the May financial reports for May 1-31. Also approved were multiple resignations and retirements.
The resignations included Christine Cooper, middle school teacher; Sandra Bobo, middle school paraprofessional; Scott Hawley, high school teacher; Sara Liske, Larson fourth-grade teacher; Nicole Desoto, Larson physical education teacher; Therese Cleary Haley, middle school special education teacher; Michael Haley, middle school social studies teacher; and Bianca Hernandez, general education social worker. [It was noted that Hernandez would still be serving HCS students as social worker, but that her services would be paid through another agency.] Retirements included Jayne Howard, high school teacher; and Bryan Dora, Maintenance, Building and Grounds.
The board also approved Ryan Carlstrom as varsity girls basketball coach and Josh O’Day as eighth-grade girls and boys basketball coach. Additionally, the board approved the recommendations to hire Tara Standen and Shannon Stalnaker as teachers at Larson Elementary.
Under the Non-Consent Agenda, the board moved to:
-Approve the second reading of the HCS Book Review Policy
-Adopt the 2022-2023 Amended Budget
-Adopt the 2023-2024 Budget and Appropriations
-Approve the Michigan High School Athletic Association 2023-2024 Membership Resolution
-Approve the American Waste/GFL Environmental 3-year contract [a lone dissenting vote was cast by board member Jim Neff]
Heeding an inquiry and request by board member Therese Haley, action on the approval of the First Student Bus Transportation 3-year contract was set aside, and requests for proposals from other companies will be sought.
Returning to speak in Public Comment was Jerry Britton, local pastor and building contractor who had spoken at the May BOC meeting. He noted having had a conversation with Dr. Walton, referring to her not as the superintendent, but rather as “Miss Judy.” Britton said he was “not against anyone,” but that he believed it was time to address the “elephant in the room.” He then went on to challenge the board to remove all gay symbols and signage from the school. He said he believed it causes division within the community, as well as hurts HCS enrollment.
Britton followed that with a somewhat veiled threat that the exodus of dissatisfied students and parents could likely result in a $1 million loss of funding to the district. He then likened the inappropriateness of gay symbols to a pro-gun teacher putting gun silhouettes on the walls along with the Second Amendment and some slogans, adding that no one would have a problem standing up and saying the silhouettes were inappropriate for the children. He then moved into the need to ask why is the hall signage OK, and spoke of the disallowance [under federal law] of posting the 1) Ten Commandments, 2) Gideons passing out bibles, 3) students giving testimony or praying at a church-sponsored function held within the public school building.
Britton said he didn’t understand why this [not stating such, but clearly referencing LGBTQ awareness/Pride Month recognition] was an OK discussion with school children.
He also referenced the highly rated Novi Community Schools District and what he described as its strict policy against any signage, flags, etc., insinuating that the policy resulted in staff/community harmony and high academic achievement: holding that prohibition up as an example HCS should follow.
For context, while Novi Community Schools students score well academically, other aspects of its policies/activities could be far more telling. Not mentioned was that Novi Community Schools adheres to a Title IX Policy 4002 which deals with non-discrimination, citing “The Board of Education does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and transgender identity), disability, age, religion, height, weight, marital or family status, military status, ancestry, genetic information or any other legally protected category (collectively “Protected Classes”) in its programs and activities, including employment opportunities.” Neither was it cited that the Novi district is a non-schools of choice district [only students within its geographic boundaries may attend there].
According to recent census data, the HCS and NCS websites, and the National Center for Education Statistics (2021-2022), the Novi district has a population of 65,369 (roughly twice the entire population of all of Clare County) where most residents own their homes; where white collar workers comprise about 90% of the working population; that it has a poverty rate of 4.7% compared to HCS’s roughly 44% of families below the income poverty line; or that Novi includes nine schools plus an adult transition center with 512 employees compared to HCS’s 170.05 employees (77.3 teachers plus support staff); and a high school student population of 2,054 compared to 1,270 total Harrison Community Schools students.
What also was not stated was that (as per the NCS website) the Novi Community High School offers 34 co-curricular activities which include Diversity Club (SPUD-Students Promoting Unity and Diversity) and Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA). This abbreviated tincture of data would indicate that opportunity and far more inclusion than avoidance go into a successful education at Novi Community Schools – and seems wholly separate from whether any socially supportive posters are being hung on school walls.
No one else had comments for the board.
In her report, Walton said she and Britton had a good meeting, and that since the May BOE meeting she had met with a couple other community members as well – for what she described as “productive conversations.” The superintendent also reported on the HCS Town Hall meeting of May 25 [see June 1 Cleaver story] which centered on the schools’ student code of conduct and discipline. She added that, as the need arises, more Town Hall meetings can be scheduled.
Walton then spoke of how busy the last days of school had been, as well as the flurry of professional development, including a whole day June 12 of administrators’ engagement with a leadership consultant. She also noted the district improvement plan was being followed, that work continues on filling out staff positions, and that summer school at Larson, HHS and HMS had started June 12, with the high school and middle school classes being held in The Hive, as it is air conditioned.
Kelly Lipovsky, curriculum director, informed the board about the intended uses for the Grow Your Own Grant, the awarding of which the district had only recently been made aware. Walton commented regarding the amount of work Lipovsky had done to secure the grant and all her work to ensure the success of Harrison students into the future.
With no reports from boards or committees, the meeting was adjourned.
The Harrison Community Schools Board of Education meets at 5:30 p.m. the second Monday of the month in the board room at 224 W. Main St.
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