Alpena seeks help with student behavior

ALPENA — Wilson Elementary School Principal Lisa Hilberg on Thursday asked the Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District Board of Education for help dealing with behavior issues in her school and other schools in the region.

Hilberg spoke during public comment about how some children with trauma struggle with the demands of coping in a regular classroom.

“Their struggle comes out in their behaviors,” Hilberg said to the board. “They involve hitting, biting, kicking, running off, throwing objects, knocking over desks, and throwing chairs. Classrooms are evacuated.”

Hilberg said elementary schools nationwide are dealing with those issues, including local school districts. She said there needs to be resources at schools to help students who are struggling with trauma with the end goal of getting those students back into the regular education classroom.

Three ideas were suggested to the ESD board by Hilberg: update the ESD strategic plan to reflect the need of a behavior room where students experiencing trauma and behavior issues can go so they don’t disturb their peers, consider opening a special education plan to reflect the need for a room, and consider what the ESD would be able to offer for a behavior room.

“I understand that our ESD does not have the funding that other ISDs (intermediate school district) have, but perhaps you can contribute something,” Hilberg said. “Other school districts in our ESD have a need for this room, so I think our ESD should have some involvement.”

Hilberg spoke to the board because she wanted to create public awareness of what’s going on in the schools and to get a behavior room to support those children.

Alpena Public Schools Superintendent John VanWagoner said in an interview with The News that, across the region, resources are not available to handle the type of trauma that students experience. He said the district is struggling to have the resources to have a few social workers or school psychologists.

The hope is to create a behavior room within Alpena schools soon. VanWagoner said the hope is to have a place for parents and students who need support for a short period of time. He said an issue with that, though, is funding, because the resources are not available.

A position has been posted within Alpena schools to find a teacher for the room if it becomes a reality.

“We’re kind of putting everything out there to where, if everything works out, we’re able to do it next year, but knowing there are a couple of obstacles kind of in our way from that being able to happen,” VanWagoner said. “We’re really advocating to the ESD board and everybody to talk to our legislators, including our board, we’re asking the same of, and anybody that’s willing to help to bring more resources.”

ESD Superintendent Scott Reynolds said he respected Hilberg’s opinion that students deserve more. He said all students across the state and around the country deserve better funding to help them.

“Our students deserve and need more,” Reynolds said. “We here at AMA have worked hard to collaborate with all the local districts to address student needs and will continue to do that.”

VanWagoner said the ESD is doing everything it can, but doesn’t have the same resources that other districts have, especially those in lower Michigan.

“There’s some real equities that the state seriously needs to address, so ESDs like ours have the resources that they need to help our kids in our districts,” VanWagoner said.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.

In other business

The Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District Board of Education on Thursday also:

∫ approved a 2019-20 budget showing the district expects to receive $3.8 million in general fund revenue, $3.9 million in general fund expenditures, and $863,855 leftover in the general fund fund balance after it uses about $90,000 to balance its books; it also approved the 2020 special education budget, showing $8.2 million in revenues, $8.9 million in expenditures, and $11.4 million in the special education fund balance after it uses $661,607 of special education fund balance to cover a budget shortfall.

∫ updated its bank signatures to remove Tony Suszek, effective July 1, and designate Melissa Cook and Margaret Negro as authorized agents and Caryn Herrick as an authorized transfer agent. Suszek is retiring effective July 1.

∫ approved tax levies of 0.2139 mills for general operations and 1.9743 mills for special education. Those property taxes would cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $10.69 and $98.72, respectively.