Quick Review of the Oct. 12, 2021, Saline Board of Education Meeting

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The following is a brief review of the Oct. 12, 2021, Saline Board of Education meeting.

Action Items

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Transgender and Nonbinary Student Policy

The Saline Board of Education voted 7-0 to adopt the transgender and nonbinary students policy. The board adopted the policy to foster an educational environment safe for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Members of the board have stated the special policy was needed because of the hostile school environment, violence and harassment faced by transgender students.

Among other things, the policy:

  • Prohibits bullying, harassment and discrimination against transgender or non-binary students at school, on buses, during extra-curricular activities and online.
  • Provides every student the right to be addressed by a name and pronouns that correspond to the student's gender identity.
  • Requires students have access to restrooms, locker rooms and change facilities that correspond to their gender identity.
  • Requires the district provide a student with a safe, non-stigmatizing alternative to shared gender-segregated facilities if they are uncomfortable using them.
  • Requires all students be permitted to participate in physical education classes and intramural sports in a manner consistent with their gender identity.

The lone debate came over the name of the policy. The board replaced the word non-conforming with nonbinary.

Several board members did express some hesitance about language in the policy that stipulates that school staff shall not disclose a transgender student's status to their parents without the student's authorization. 

Most of the public commenters spoke in favor of the policy.

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Board Creates a Treasurer Position

The Board of Education voted 7-0 to create a fourth officer's position: The Treasurer. The treasurer will be elected by the board when it elects a president, vice-president and secretary in January. The treasurer will serve as a member of the finance committee, perform duties relating to the administration of school district funds, verify accurate and transparent periodic reports are made to the board, and serve as a temporary secretary when the board is unable to perform duties.

Enrollment Down

Finance Committee chairperson Dennis Valenti told the board that enrollment appears to be down by 100 students this year.

Superintendent Steve Laatsch confirmed after the meeting this would be on top of the 200 students lost last year.

Valenti estimated enrollment will come in at around 4,800 students. That number was at 5,175 students in 2018-19.

Miss Saline

During the student showcase, Saline senior Hailey Malinczak, crowned Miss Saline at Summerfest, updated the board about her activities.

Continue to Learn Update

Superintendent Steve Laatsch noted that while COVID-19 cases remain high in the state, the district staff and students  have done a good job minimizing disruptions in Saline schools.

Laatsch said positive tests remain low in the schools and that test-to-stay program administered by district nurses have helped the district reduce the number of quarantines in the district.

Laatsch used most of his update to talk to the board about the ways in which the South and West Washtenaw Consortium's Career & Technical Education program is helping the district serve students.  There will be an open house from 6-7:30 p.m., Nov. 30, at Saline High School.

Administration and Board Reports

Superintendent Laatsch highlighted two students, Jason Chen and Andreanna Ulery,  who presented virtually to the  The Global Health Leaders Conference  at Johns Hopkins University.

Chen discussed the rising health care costs worldwide and how big data analytics can be utilized to not only address this global crisis but improve the overall quality of health care.

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Ulery  discussed the current state of mental health across the globe and the impacts of stigma on those with mental illness. She examined the most common mental illnesses globally, explored the surrounding stigma, and encouraged viewers to take steps in their own life to start rewriting the narrative around mental illness.

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Laatsch thanked The Rotary Club of Saline for building a new pavilion at Henne Field.

Laatsch said the employment situation continues to be "dire" but that staff, students and parents are finding ways to get through the labor shortage.

Julian Downey, student rep on the board, talked about his visit to Harvest Elementary School for a fun run.

Vice President Mike McVey also thanked Rotary Club the pavilion and said he was told woodworking students would soon begin building tables and benches that would sit in the pavilion.

Trustee Jenny Miller said students thoroughly enjoyed Homecoming activities, including the dance in the rain at Hornet Stadium. She thanked all the staff and students who made it happen.

Trustee Dennis Valenti relayed the story he heard about Henne Field. He said it was the Saline High School football team's first field. Originally, it lacked a field, so the town's merchants donated topsoil and the farmers came in and planted the grass.

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Board meeting was not fair and balanced. Speakers except for one were all in favor. Copy of the policy was not provided to attendees. Board spent half hour deciding on use of the word transgender or non-binary. 

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