Bullying the focus of SIAC meeting

School board approves portion of at-risk budget

Miller

Miller

How can Marshalltown Schools cut down on bullying?

Along with the regular school board meeting Monday afternoon, parents, students, teachers and principals attended a meeting of the School Improvement Advisory Committee to develop with goals for June of 2017.

“We’re going to number off into three groups,” said Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson, committee leader. “Our goal is to come up with one or two goals to deal with bullying and harassment.”

She gave the audience of about two dozen a presentation that covered district bullying and harassment numbers in school years 2013-2014, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.

Each of the three groups looked at the data from one of the respective school years in order to develop goals to reduce the frequency of bullying. According to the data, bullying and harassment has been on a three-year decline.

Stevenson

Stevenson

According to the most recent data, from 2015-2016, 6 percent of harassment had to do with disability, 15 percent with race or ethnicity, 25 percent with sexual harassment, 2 percent sexual orientation, 12 percent “blank” and 41 percent listed as “other.”

After deliberation, the three groups announced the goals they had developed. Reducing the number of unique bullying or harassment incidents to below the current 3 percent and lowering the amount of major harassment were among the goals.

Other common themes included developing a uniform reporting protocol for the district or within buildings, measuring the impact of anti-bullying and harassment instruction and to increase community awareness of the legal definition and the district’s board policy on bullying.

“I think many parents don’t know the state’s definition of bullying,” said Franklin Elementary Principal Tim Holmgren. “We have to go into that conversation.”

School board

In a 6-1 decision, the board approved the tax-funded portion of the at-risk budget for the 2017-2018 school year in the amount of $1,184,328. The total at-risk budget calls for $1,982,994.

“It feels like we’re sort of rushing this through,” said Mike Miller, board member who voted not to approve the figure. “I just don’t feel comfortable.”

He expressed concern over “kicking the can down the road” on finding out how effectively the funding is being spent.

Stevenson, who presented the at-risk budget information prior to the vote, said she would gather more information from previous school years for the board members to review. The decision was not tabled for a later meeting and action was taken, ending in approval.

Miller said he was unsure if the district was giving enough funding to the at-risk budget, or if it was using too much, adding he wished to find out more.

“I think we need to spend money on at risk kids,” he said.

The board also approved a license agreement with Transfinder, a program that Director of Transportation Don Meyer and Director of Business Operations Brian Bartz said will be more accessible and efficient that the current system of communication when it comes to transportation.

“Right now, we’re getting charged just under $12,000 a year,” Meyer said of the current system. “(Transfinder) is a little bit simpler system.”

In the approved agreement, the program cost for the first year will be $18, 540 and will then reduce to $6,450 a year.

Bartz said the program offers benefits to the district, especially principals.

“It’s a more efficient system,” he said, adding the program offers ease of access to information on transportation of students for faculty and improved communication to bus route drivers.

Additionally, Meyer said the program may cause less route overlapping and make it easier to give directions to substitute drivers.

Miller, who was originally selected to fill a vacated board seat earlier this year, was sworn in as a board member after being elected to the seat on Nov. 8.

The next Marshalltown School Board meeting is set for 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19 at the Central Administration Office, 1002 S. 3rd Ave.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com