MAPS holds meeting to discuss safety, bullying issues

MANISTEE — About 100 concerned parents and citizens gathered in the Manistee Middle/High School Media Center to discuss bullying, school safety and a wide variety of other

Manistee Area Public Schools superintendent Ron Stoneman listens to the concerns of about 100 citizens over recent bullying and safety issues in the district at Monday's meeting. An advisory committee made up of a cross section of the community is being formed to address the issues and report to the board of education and administration.

Manistee Area Public Schools superintendent Ron Stoneman listens to the concerns of about 100 citizens over recent bullying and safety issues in the district at Monday’s meeting. An advisory committee made up of a cross section of the community is being formed to address the issues and report to the board of education and administration.

topics of concern.

Recent events concerning violence and bullying both nationally and locally prompted school officials to call the meeting. Besides hearing public comment, one of the main purposes of the meeting was to seek out individuals who would be interested in serving on a committee. MAPS superintendent Ron Stoneman said the committee would be instrumental in helping school officials find ways to address the problem areas and make recommendations to the board and administration.

“We are here tonight not only to appoint a committee, but to hear your input,” said Stoneman. “Our number one job is safety and that includes emotional safety for our students.”

Stoneman said it will be a standing committee that will meet very often in the beginning to address the current issues and then evolve into one that would meet more on a quarterly basis.

“It would give the MAPS Board of Education and administration the chance to make sure that each building would be a safe one,” said Stoneman. “Committee members would include students, family and community members, school personnel, law enforcement, emergency responders and community leaders so we are looking on good coverage of the entire community on this committee.”

The staff continues to address ways to improve safety measures according to Stoneman. He said they continue to work on safety programs including taking part in the Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training on Monday.

“We continue to talk about emergency plans we have for each building and make sure they meet the standards of today,” said Stoneman.

Stoneman told those in attendance that there are some things district officials hoped could be addressed Monday night and others would be for the committee to study and come back with a recommendation.

One issue that parent Bobbi Rogers Krause brought up seemed to get unanimous approval from everyone in the room. It also tied in to a recent incident at the Manistee Middle/High School.

“Can we get a commitment from you tonight that any physical confrontation that occurs in our school, the parents of the individuals involved will be called that day?” said the parent.

Stoneman said that was something that was reasonable and could be addressed right away. He promised to instruct the administrators to implement it.

Parent Jason Jados said he had concerns about the need for better security at the doors and for the possible purchase of metal detectors. He proved his point with a guitar case that he brought with him.

“I can and have brought this into many buildings because I teach guitar and no one has ever questioned me what was in it,” said Jados. “It is big enough to have a gun in it and no one has ever asked to look at it.”

That was followed up with concerns that the current buzzer system to gain entry into the school is not being implemented in a secure enough manner to check who is at the doors. Related comments touched on if there is funding for security guards or increased police presence at the buildings.

“I know the (city) police make an effort to be around the school buildings more before and after school, but could the number of them be increased,” asked one parent.

“I know I would be willing to pay more taxes to see that happen,” added another.

Other issues addressed during the two and a half hour long meeting were cell phones being banned from the schools and tighter security on the iPads and laptops that students use in their studies.

Stoneman also informed the board that they are increasing the number of SafeNET workers they have in the district. The district splits the cost for the SafeNET program with Centra Wellness to have social workers in the schools.

“We already have them at the Jefferson and Kennedy elementary buildings, and we are in the process of getting one at the middle/high school,” said Stoneman.

Attendees asked if additional social workers could be hired as the current ones have their workloads stretched to the limit.

Another topic on Monday was the fact that the 100 or so parents who came to the media center were only a fraction of the parent population in the district, which numbers around 1,500 students.

“What about the parents of some of the students who are causing the trouble who aren’t here tonight?” said one parent. “How do we reach them?”

Officials said these are all the types of issues that the committee will address in the upcoming weeks and months.

Board of education president Dr. Paul Antal told those in attendance at the end of the night that he thought the meeting produced some good results. All seven of the board of education members were in attendance.

“These are positive suggestions we have heard tonight and that is what we need,” he said. “All of the board members and administrators are here tonight and have heard you. We are going to look into what we can do and what we can’t do.”

Stoneman called for those who were interested in becoming a part of the committee to submit their names and said that they would be selecting people to fill those positions.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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