Wednesday, April 4, 2018

School Safety Drills

Q: My child comes home and will tell me they had a code yellow or another school has a code red. What does that mean? -Parent-

A: I am able to answer this question.

One of the requirements that K-12 public school must comply with are, “School Safety Drills”.  Stephenson Area Public Schools are required to schedule and practice safety preparedness such as Fire Drills 2 drills required each school year, Severe Weather Drills 2 drills required each school year, Shelter in Place Drills / Cod Red and Lock-down Drills / Code Yellow (a total of 3 in any combination of Shelter in Place, Code Yellow or Code Red required each school year).  The scheduling and execution of these drills are recorded and reported to the Michigan Department of Education annually. Documentation of drills can be found on our Stephenson Area Public Schools website labeled "Emergency Drills".

What is Code Yellow?  Code Yellow is a required drill where districts lock all exterior doors as well as classroom doors.  Business goes on as usual within the classrooms and offices.  Students and staff are not allowed to leave the classrooms or offices without escort.  When does a code yellow occur?  “Code Yellow Drills” occur when there is a tip from law enforcement or credible source that there is a “potential threat” within the region or area.

What is Code Red?  “Code Red” is also a required safety drill where districts lock exterior doors as well as classroom doors and there is a state-endorsed safety pin that in attached to the door and floor.  During these drills students and staff move to a predetermined place within the facility, remain silent and remain in the predetermined area until the “Code Red” is lifted.  “Code Red” is used when there is “Reasonable Suspicion” that a threat is within the region of area.  During the required “Code Red” Drill, Law Enforcement is present to observe and check to make sure the drill is being run as required by state expectations.  During the times of actual “Code Red” situations / non-drill, law enforcement works diligently to have a presence in the immediate area of schools.  This presence is either on patrol outside the building or a presence within the building.

I hope this answers your question. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

24/7 Gym Access

Q: Why can’t you open the gym up to student athletes 24/7 if they sign a waiver? What’s the problem?

A: Great question that I will answer.

A safe and orderly environment is a correlate of Effective Schools according to Effective School Research.  It is the goal of the Stephenson Board of Education to provide a safe environment for students.  I do not believe that providing 24 hours 7 day a week access to students without supervision is a safe practice.

It is my understanding that a number of years ago, the Stephenson Area Public Schools Board of Education set into policy the requirement to have supervision of facilities.  During the school day it is the responsibility of the principal to assure there is supervision.  According to the current policy, when the facility, including the gymnasium, is utilized after hours, a responsible adult must complete and sign a district form and shall be present and be responsible for the supervision of the area.  I agree and support this policy that was put into place a number of years ago.

If I would allow one group of students (specifically athletes) to have access and not allow non-athletes to have access, it would be discriminating.  We do not allow band, drama, robotics, BPA or industrial arts students’ access without supervision and athletes are no different.  My understanding is the rules were put in place years ago because there were multiple incidents where damage to the building occurred and there was no supervision.  Just because a student is an athlete does not mean that they receive preferential treatment over another student.  ALL students are human and ALL students make mistakes and violate rules at one time or another during their life.   As a former college athlete, I can tell you that athletes did NOT have access to facilities without direct supervision.  Based on some of the situations that have recently made the news at the college level, I find it hard to imagine that colleges today allow athletes to have 24-hour access to training facilities without supervision.

I do not agree that a signed waiver excludes an institution and its board of directors from being responsible if an accident or incident occur.  The legal term that is important here is “foreseeability”.  Foreseeability means that you could reasonably predict or envision a situation occurring.   So the rule of thumb here is this, “If you foresee a potential problem and act in a prudent (responsible) manner you are not liable.  If you do not act in a prudent (responsible) manner you are liable.
I believe a former Stephenson Board of Education foresaw a potential situation and acted in a prudent manner thus, putting into place a policy and procedure for the utilization of the gymnasium after hours.  I support that decision and do not believe a change is in the best interest of students’, waiver or no waiver.

Building / facility security is a huge concern all over this country today.  It does not matter if you are in the public sector or in the private sector.  Securing facilities and being accountable for safety of patrons is a top priority in this country and at Stephenson Area Public Schools. 

Thanks for the question. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Registered Sex Offenders

 Q: Are registered sex offenders allowed in the building?  -Parent-

A: I am able to answer this question.
My stance has always been and will continue to be that a registered sex offender is not to be on school property without prior approval of the Superintendent.  If for a legitimate reason, the Superintendent allows the registered sex offender to be on campus, the registered sex offender must be under the direct observation of a school official.

In the event that a registered sex offender has been on campus I would appreciate a phone call to 906-753-2221 ext. 104 so I can set up a meeting and communicate with the registered sex offender face to face.  I need to do everything within my ability to make sure the safety of our students is not compromised while the rights of the registered sex offender are not violated.
Thanks for the question

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bus missed student pickup

Q:   The bus motored past my house without giving a glance or slowing down.  I understand that there have been a couple mail boxes hit this winter.  I understand that drivers are in short supply.  What should I do?

A:   Great question that I can answer.
Let me start at the end of this question and work in reverse.  If you have questions or concerns regarding transportation, please give our Transportation Supervisor, Paul Starzynski a call at 906-753-2221 ext. 112.  It is absolutely true that bus drivers are in short supply and in high demand in most districts around the state of Michigan.  Anyone interested in becoming a bus driver should call Paul Starzynski and 906- 753-2221 ext. 112.  We will be happy to work with and train individuals who are interested in becoming bus drivers.  Please understand that bus drivers are subject to random drug testing as part of Department of Transportation regulations.

We have recently had a number of drivers retire and others that are off for personal reasons.  We have been very fortunate to have a new driver get certified in January 2018 and hopefully we will gain another driver within the next two weeks.  A consistent driver on numerous routes has been a challenge for us this year.  We are very thankful for the substitute drivers that have stepped in to help.  We have cameras on all buses and the cameras serve two main purposes.  The first purpose is to observe student behavior so the safety of our students will occur.  The second reason is to use as a coaching / safety tool for our drivers. 

Regarding hitting mail boxes, unfortunately that occurs.  I have worked in multiple districts over the past 35 years and routinely, sometime during the school year, a bus driver will back into a mail box.  I remember a long time ago, a very experienced driver backed over a mail box.   That individual was EXTREMELY embarrassed. 

If one of our buses backs into and damages your personal property, please give Paul a call and we will make sure we fix the problem we create.   The cameras on the bus normally catch those occurrences on film.

Thanks for the question.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Late Buss

Q: My child’s bus was almost an hour late.  How are parents notified so we know when this is going to happen?   
A: We recently had a situation where we were short one bus driver for our evening routes and had to double up three routes between two drivers.  (finding people with bus driver certification is very difficult to find in many parts of the state of Michigan) We did not get students home as quickly as we had anticipated.  There were some positive conversations between some parents and our transportation supervisor and we revisited our procedures.
It is currently our plan if we need to double up evening routes occasionally or if we have bus trouble (mechanically) we will do a call out through our automated messenger service to those numbers we have listed in our student / parent information system.
Getting our students to and from school in a safe and orderly manner is a high priority for us.  I am appreciative and thankful for our bus drivers, mechanic and transportation supervisor.  I believe they do an outstanding job day in and day out, in some very challenging weather conditions.
If you have a suggestion or concern regarding transportation, please call our transportation line and our transportation supervisor will get back with you.   Positive conversations lead to positive improvements.

Requirements for Children's Food Service

Q: I know guidelines are involved but how can you go to pizza one day to cheesy bread sticks.  To me it is like one day they get a good amount of food to a little amount.  I thought maybe the cheesy bread sticks should have at least ravioli and or spaghetti with it.  As for the breakfast part goes that looks good.  I know some kids are picky eaters but it is far better now than when I was a kid.  I remember having shepherd’s pie, over cooked French toast sticks hard as rocks, out dated milk.  So yea I think the kids have a good choice of food.  Just concerned on nutrition lacking in some situations.

A: I have requested the assistance of our Food Service Supervisor, Cindy Schacht, to answer this question.  Cindy would be happy to meet with anyone who may have additional questions pertaining to this topic. I hope this answers the question. 
Thanks for the question

Requirement Servings for students by grade ranges
K-5 Grains 1oz min daily 8-9oz weekly
6-8 Grains 1oz min daily 8-10oz weekly
9-12 Grains 2oz min daily 10-12oz weekly

K-5 Protein 1oz min daily 8-10oz weekly
6-8 Protein 1oz min daily 9-10 weekly
9-12 Protein 2oz daily 10-12 weekly

K-5 Fruit 1/2c min daily 2 ½ cups weekly
6-8 Fruit 1/2c min daily 2 1/2cups weekly
9-12 Fruit 1/2c min daily 5 cups weekly

K-5 Vegetable 3/4c min daily 3 3/4cups weekly
6-8 Vegetable 3/4c min daily 3 3/4cups weekly
9-12 Vegetable 1 cup min daily 5 cups weekly
Milk for all ages is 8 oz.

The menu that we develop averages grains, protein, fruit and vegetables out for the week. If a student   gets extra bread one day, the next day the student might get a little less. We give 2 oz. bread and 2 oz. protein every day so the totals at the end of the week are what are required. Bread-sticks are 2 oz. protein and 2 oz. grain 2 oz.  Pizza is the same, except the French bread pizza is more bread than the stuffed crust. So it is by average that the menu is designed.

Students are always welcome to come and get more fruit and vegetable anytime they feel they need more to eat. If students want additional of the entrée’s, they can purchase it at the ala carte price. We also have a price for an extra entrée’s. At the elementary level, we don’t get many students coming back for additional servings. At the High School level, we do get more students coming back for extra servings, so our cooks at the high school try to predict how many kids will want additional servings. Predicting how many servings, dependent upon the entrée, is often difficult to judge.  The high school food service staff uses longitudinal data to predict the amount of food to prepare based on previous demand and specific entrée.

If anyone would like to discuss in more detail how a menu is made, our food service leader, Cindy Schadt would be happy to talk to them.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Flu Season Precautions

Q: With flu season in full swing, what is Stephenson Area Public Schools doing special to disinfect classrooms, halls and bathrooms.  –Parent-

A: Great question. I am surely able to respond.

As a public school we have limitations on us due to environmental allergies that prohibit us from utilizing some of the common brand name cleaners that most of us use in our homes and their contents.  There are state and federal regulations that pertain to cleaning solutions that we must abide by.   Many of these products are soaps, cleaning compounds, floor sealing products and air fresheners.   The products we use come with a fact sheets and required labels that are commonly referred to as the MSDS sheets.  MSDS stands for stands for Material Safety Data Sheets.   An example of a product that is highly regarded and utilized in many homes are the Lysol products.  We are not allowed to utilize these products.  Unquestionably a high quality product that is not allowable at school.  Thus we need to utilize products that are safe for ALL students and visitors to our schools.

What have we done? We have increased wiping down common areas such as door knobs, panic bars and handles.  We have encouraged students to use more tissue paper.  We have encouraged people to utilize their own materials and not to share computers, writing utensils and note books.  I hear staff members reminding students to cough into the arm or elbow and not into their hand.  We have liquid hand sanitizers' in many locations.

We also encourage students and staff that are ill to go home and stay home until they feel better.  Recently we purchased new drinking fountains that will fill a water bottle instead of using handles or press bars.  We have these new fountains in multiple locations in both buildings. When we purchased the drinking fountains, we were aware that high bacteria areas in public facilities were water fountains.  These fountains are considerably more expensive but have water filters built in to the fountain that filter the water and they are a “hands free” way to gain hydration while reducing exposure during this time of year.  

We continue to clean hallways, bathrooms and common areas daily.

Thanks for question.