School Safety Efforts Discussed at Saline Board of Education


One year after the mass shooting at Michigan State University, the safety and security team updated the Saline Board of Education on its work.

Communications Director Jackie Martin, Operations Director Rex Clary and Technology Director Jay Grossman lead the team that meets once a month for security, meets administration, reviews building-level drills and works on the security technology that visitors will see in the schools. They presented to the board.

The safety and security team works with school administrators. It has an internal team that includes Saline Alternative High School Principal Carol Melcher, District Nurse Karan Hervey, Security Manager Chuck McCalla, Facilities Manager Cody Pickard, Pittsfield Police Resource Officer Lamar Gassaway, Saline Police Resource Officer Morgan Seija and SAS Community Liaison Don Lupi. All serve on a subcommittee that includes Pittsfield Police Chief Matt Harshberger, Deputy Chief Patrick Gray, Lt. Eric Roth, Lt. Jason Hohner, Pittsfield Fire Marshall Jon Decaro, Saline Police Chief Marlene Radzik and Fire Chief Jason Sperle. There are also plans to add representation from Washtenaw County Emergency Representatives.

Over the last two weeks, the team has met with building leaders to talk about drills, debriefs, meetings and training.

“We realized on safety and security, we’re more of a district of schools and not a school district,” Clary told the board. “We want to bring everything together and be on the same page. Yes, it’s got to be age-appropriate. But we want everyone on the same page so we can support them.”

Clary thanked families and visitors for adhering to the new safety protocols when gaining access to the buildings - including background checks and having appropriate ID for the entrance technology.

Each school has a medical emergency response team. Nurse Hervey trains them in CPR, AEDs, first aid, Narcan and other measures. The district also has student behavior response teams trained in non-violent crisis intervention.

This district is employing technology to keep the schools safe. It uses the Informacast emergency alert system that’s operational in all seven buildings and it simultaneously warns district administration and first responders in Pittsfield and Saline.

The Verkada Camera system employs 540 surveillance cameras. It’’s primarily used to review footage after an altercation has occurred. The footage can be reviewed from remote locations.

“It’s cut down the time to find an event that’s happened by about 90 percent,” Grossman said.

It will be built into the Hornet Operations Center where it can be viewed with dynamic monitoring of high-traffic areas.

The district has employed the Verkada Visitor Management system in all seven buildings. It provides a real-time ID scan before visitors access a building and a computer generator badge with a photo.

Martin said the team will present an updated Emergency Operations Plan to the board by July 1. The team is through about 75 percent of the discussions needed to formulate the updated plan.

“I’d like to commend the building-level administrators who take this work seriously, ask good questions and serve as key leaders in all of this work,” Martin said.

Trustee Lauren Gold noticed no one with a mental health background serving on the safety committees.

“One of the challenges is identifying threats. I’m just wondering if we have someone with psychological expertise to identify threats,” Gold said.

Martin said that was a great suggestion and something the team will explore.

Trustee Jenny Miller said she felt like the district is at the forefront of school security.

“There’s a level of safety here and a level of forethought that is incredible,” Miller said.

She also said she saw one of the medical response teams save a life in a gym class.

“We’re being proactive and preventative, but (medical emergencies) have happened and we have needed (training) here in our schools,” Miller said. commending Nurse Hervey for her work,

Superintendent Steve Laatsch commended the community for the way it informs the district about potential threats. He said students report when other students are behaving strangely or seem ‘off.” Parents and community members also report behavioral issues.

“I feel strongly that is our best way to work as a community, as it relates to mental health, is to report it when we see things that seem out of the ordinary,” Laatsch said. “We feel very supported by our community in that way.”


Saline Area Schools has a $77 million operating budget. Finance chair Trustee Brad Gerbe reported Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is planning to increase state funding by 2.5 percent - or $241 per student. Whitmer also proposed making two years of community college free to new high school graduates and expanding taxpayer-funded preschool programs to be free for any four-year-old. In addition, there’s she wants to continue to fund free school breakfasts and lunches.

Superintendent’s Report

In his report to the board, Dr. Laatsch highlighted the community’s response to a home fire that impacted a district family. He noted that within days, a community GoFundMe page had raised $24,000 - more than requested by the organizer - to support the family.

“I am impressed by how incredibly generous and supportive our families are of other families in the community. This community reall goes above and beyond to support people in need and its great,” Laatsch said.

Employment Opportunities

Special Education Director Kevin Musson was joined by Nu2U Again thrift store owner Lisa Rentschler to showcase the way students gain value employment skills at eight different job sites in the community.

Besides Nu2U, Saline Area Social Service, Brookside Golf Course, CVS, Tractor Supply, the Saline Rec Center, Saline Area Schools and Yost Arena have hired Saline students with disabilities.

Donated Benches Would Raise Suicide Awareness

The Hot Rod Motorcycle and Awareness Suicide Prevention spoke to the board, a group dedicated to motorcycle awareness and suicide prevention, spoke to the board about donating two benches to be installed on Saline Area Schools property.

“Knowing where to get help when you need it is very important. Our benches display the message ‘You are not alone’ and provide the 988 crisis hotline number,” Rod Beaton said “giving your students a resource to ask for help when they may need it.”

They have donated similar benches to Milan, Dundee and other school districts.

Several board members expressed support for the program.

100 days of School at Harvest

Harvest Elementary School Principal Emily Sickler presented the board a top 10 list of why Harvest is “oh so sweet.” Number 1? The Harvest Hornets.

“There’s nothing sweeter than 432 Hornets than walk in the doors of Hornets each day. And who knows what they’ll do when they walk out? Maybe even land here someday,” Sickler said motioning to the student reps on the board.

Soccer Program Recognized

The board recognized the Saline boys soccer program, which won the district championship under coach Conner Williams.

Hayes Appointed

The board voted to appoint Tara Hayes to replace Ann Babcock on the WISD Parents Advisory Council, as recommended by Musson. Trustee Miller thanked Babcock for her service.

McVey Endorsed

The board voted to cast a vote for Board President Mike McVey as a Board of Director for Region 7 of the Michigan Association of School Boards.

Money for SWWC Equipment

The board approved spending more than $210,000 for equipment in the South and West Washtenaw Consortium. That includes a CBC plasma cutting system, vertical variable speed milling machines and a digital printing press. “The purchase of this equipment will provide students in Saline Area Schools, along with the consortium districts, an opportunity to practice skills using state-of-the-art equipment and subsequently earn industry-endorsed certifications and licenses – further preparing students for their respective post-secondary plans,” wrote Kara Stemmer, director of the SWWC, in her memo to the board.

Money Approved for Network

The board approved spending $70,263 to connect fiber optic cables to the new Hornet Operations Center for network connectivity.

Money for STEAM Lab, Weight Room and Operation Center Equipment

The board approved spending $1,114,870 with Barton Mallow for several projects, including $488,000 on new classroom A/V equipment, $136,000 to replace cabling for projectors, $156,000 for access control systems to the STEAM/Robotics lab, the weight room and Operations Center, $310,000 for AV for the same three facilities, and contingency fees.

Board Approves $13.5 Million for STEAM Lab, Weight Room and Operations Center

The board approved spending $13.427,161 on a contractor with Trade Contractors and $50,000 to King Scott Architects for the new weight room and STEAM/Robotics additions. Director of Operations Rex Clary noted that the district is still significantly under budget for bond projects thus far.

Human Resources

New hires include high school phys ed teacher and football coach Kyle Short. Scott Powers and William Minnette were hired as bus drivers. Resignations include bus driver William Curts, high school paraeducator Noel Nagy and custodian Tyrell Murphy.

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