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N. Harrison board addresses safety concerns at MES

N. Harrison board addresses safety concerns at MES N. Harrison board addresses safety concerns at MES
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

Jordan Black, a parent of a Morgan Elementary School student, had questions for the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees at its meeting last Wednesday.

“I want to know what is being done to put these acts of violence in the past, what has worked at other schools, what doesn’t, and what the administration’s plan is moving forward to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” Black said.

Lack of communication between administration and the community seemed to be the theme of the meeting, attended by many parents and staff of the school district. And, after calling the meeting to order, much of the time was spent highlighting recent cases of violence in the county, particularly at Morgan Elementary.

The issue came to a head after a recent incident that took place in the Morgan Elementary cafeteria. According to Angela Martin, the school counselor, a student was verbally picked on in the lunchroom and started to lash out and escalate the situation. After moving the other students to a different area, the student still was acting out. Eventually, after a trial-and-error process, the staff at hand were able to calm down the student.

Bruce Kulwicki, the director of special education, was invited by the board to speak about his thoughts on how to best handle students who are acting out in an aggressive behavior. While he said most people’s first thoughts would be to jump to junior high and high school students when referencing assault cases, the majority of his reports are on elementary schools students, particularly kindergarten to third grade.

Kulwicki said the county is in a crisis and even mental health agencies in the area are overwhelmed with cases of aggression. He also suggested it is time to stop looking at schooling and education in its current criteria and start examining holistic approaches to battle the issues kids face in their day-to-day lives.

“We are judged by how we do in math and reading comprehension, but, if we are going to survive what is going on right now, we are going to have to start teaching kids how to cope with what is going on in their lives,” Kulwicki said. “Whether it be Morgan, North Harrison, Corydon, Heth-Washington, there’s not just one school not impacted by this. The best thing we can do as professionals is try to prepare our staff and parents to best deal with what we have going on in our community.”

The outbursts are apparently wearing on the staff as well.

Lorna Wenning has been a teacher at Morgan for 21 years and also spoke at the meeting. She referenced multiple situations where violence occurred and said that at the end of the school year there are 11, possibly 14, staff members who will be leaving the school either to switch to another school in the area or retire.

“You are going to have bare minimum staff,” Wenning said. “Every day the staff are in tears. The teachers out here make that school happen, and to let a school go down the drain like this is just awful.”

The board agreed with public comments that more can be done to help the aggression problem at Morgan Elementary, and Dr. Lance Richards, superintendent of the North Harrison school district, said the board has plans to bring on a new employee to act as a facilitator for parents to help their children get the best resources available for their kids. The employee will have an administrative certificate and will have a main duty of talking and communicating with parents. He also said there is more to be done, however.

“We have a lot of resources in place, but we need more,” Richards said. “We have processes and procedures in place, and we have to add more to that. We have to step up. We have increased some of the personnel at Morgan in terms of special needs. We have to meet these kids where they are and try to bring them forward. We are going to find a way to help these kids be successful. There are no throw-away children, and we all are going to have to work together to solve these problems.”

The board, which normally meets on the second Thursday of each month, had the meeting a night earlier so school trustees could drop in to catch part of the archery teams’ practice.

The next school board meeting will be Thursday, March 12, at 7 p.m.