By Bill Petzold
KINGSTON — The Kingston school board voted Tuesday to adopt a new bullying policy and approved the district’s budget for the 2012-13 school year.
Kingston Public Schools superintendent and high school principal Mike McLaughlin said that the new bullying policy mostly was a formality to comply with “Matt’s Safe School Law,” an anti-bullying law passed in December that is named after Matt Epling, a high school freshman from East Lansing who killed himself after being bullied by upperclassmen in 2002.
“I think we do a ready good job here at Kingston,” McLaughlin said. “We already have a couple of people in each building, and their job is overseeing bullying behavior. We have the posters, we have the people in place. We just have to submit all the new criteria Matt’s Law requires us to do.”
McLaughlin said that Matt’s Law requires the school district to publish the bullying policy once a year, which Kingston officials plan to do through their website (www.kingston.k12.mi.us) and through the school newsletter. Beyond that, McLaughlin says that bullying still exists at Kingston, but the students and staff are more aware of it than ever before.
“I don’t think we have (any more bullying) than anywhere else in Michigan,” McLaughlin said. “We talk about it before it happens … We’re very proactive on it. We reward kids for doing the things they’re supposed to do. Our liaisons talk to kids about how to deal with (bullies).
“I think we do a good job educating both kids who are being bullied and also bullies who may need a little bit of work. We still have it like everybody does. Our hope is that with more awareness and education we can do our part to improve it.”
The Kingston school board ratified the proposed budget for the 2012-13 year. The proposed budget accounts for roughly $600,000 less in overall revenue, but after review of the 2011-12 budget, the district was more than $10,000 in the black after the past school year.
“The superintendents before me did a tremendous job,” McLaughlin said. “We don’t have a lot of waste here; we get by with what we have. Our staff has been very generous. They do what they can … (and some) teachers go above and beyond and purchase things on their own. Last year we purchased new textbooks, and as a result our math scores have been really improved. We’re not overstaffed by any means; we have a lot of staff who serve dual roles.”
Through the hard work of staff and students, Kingston met its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) objectives. AYP, a component of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, measures year-to-year student acheivement on standardized tests, as well as graduation rates and other factors that help determine how well a school educates.
“We did make AYP,” McLaughlin said. “That’s something that we were really worried about this year, because the state changed the cut score. It was predicted that a majority of Michigan schools weren’t going to make it. We’re very pleased to see it. Our students and our staff do a great job.”
By Bill Petzold