Morenci school board hears discipline report 2015.07.22

By DAVID GREEN

What's the major cause of discipline referrals in the Morenci school system? Tardiness.

And what percent of the student body is involved in discipline problems? About five percent, estimates assistant secondary principal Phil Stark.

Stark and elementary school principal Gail Frey reported to the board of education at the regular July meeting last Tuesday.

Stark said tardiness was the top problem in grades six through 12, although the situation improved as the year progressed.

"Tardiness is a problem we have to deal with in the workplace, too," said board member Laura Spencer. "People can't seem to get to work on time and it eventually leads to dismissal."

"Going through the dismissal referral statistics from the past year," Stark said, "I noticed that it's only a handful of students that accumulate the majority. A large number of problems come from a small number of students."

In the sixth grade, for example, only two boys accounted for 32 suspensions.

Last year's junior class exhibited the fewest problems of any secondary class.

"Our students overall do a really nice job," Frey said. "I can't say enough about what kind, respectful kids we have."

Tardiness is a problem at the elementary school, also, she said, and something that needs to be worked on with parents.

Many of the problems at that level have to do with behavior such as touching others when going down the hall. There's a difference between intimidation and just bothering others, she said, and the issue will be addressed with staff.

Of the 22 suspensions at the elementary school, 14 were with repeat offenders. Many discipline problems are with transient students who don't understand the expectations of the district, Frey said.

FINANCES—Morenci is one of 171 school districts in the state designated as a "stressed district," meaning that its fund equity is less than five percent of its budget. This requires the district to report to the state Department of Treasury four times a year to give an update on finances, to tell how the problem is being handled and to explain what is being done to improve the situation.

"Debt is going on all over the state," said superintendent Mike McAran. "Eventually the state will move in with an emergency manager and take care of your problems."

Ann Arbor schools get more than $3,000 more per student, he said, but the district is facing debt. The Saline district receives about the same funding as Ann Arbor and the financial problems there are worse than Morenci's.

CHOICE—Morenci's board renewed its status as a Schools of Choice district to allow students from other districts to enroll here, and to allow Morenci students to attend other districts. Failure to do so would result in a five percent loss of state funding.