Sex Ed and money hot topics at school board meeting

Sex Education, money and databases were the key topics discussed at the Okemos Board of Education meeting held Monday night.

The school board meeting was held at the Okemos Central Elementary School located at 4406 Okemos Rd. in the school’s Community Conference Room. The 16 people in audience had the opportunity to hear and respond to the seven members of the Okemos school board.

Those members are Peter Trezie, Ron Styke, Bob McDonough, Judith Barton-MacGuidwin, Jeff Theuer, Amy Crites and Mary Graham, all of whom were in attendance.

The meeting, which lasted more than three hours, covered the school district’s new implementation of a computer software system called Munis Financial Software Package. Board members talked for more than an hour about Munis, a system that would be used by the district for billing purposes using charts of financial accounts.

“It covers funds in general except for food services; food service is separate,” said Deputy Superintendent Catherine Ash, who helped present Munis. The Okemos school district signed a five-year $50,000 contract in 2007 with Munis paying $50,000.

According to board member Bob McDonough, the Okemos School Board is optimistic about the new system.

“Our expectation is that this program will be efficient and is a great collaborative effort between Okemos public schools and the company,” said McDonough.

While some saw Munis as a great asset, others were concerned how the decision to use it would affect parents of Okemos students. Food services are included in the current system. Once Munis is implemented, food services will be separate, which raised some eyebrows.

“What is the long range effect of this?” asked board member Barton-MacGuidwin. “I’m trying to figure out how all of these systems interconnect. We need the broader picture.”

The board also discussed sexual education in the Okemos school district.

Assistant Superintendent Patty Trelstad and Supervisor Jill Dehlin presented a proposal to change the district’s sex education curriculum by discontinuing the Michigan Model of HIV in grades Kindergarten, second and third. The HIV program presents lessons on emotional and personal health and HIV. The proposal will terminate lessons that are not making a great an impact as anticipated. It would focus mostly on the middle schools and high schools.

According to Trelstad, Okemos High School, for example, doesn’t have all the requirements of the curriculum including lessons about economic/legal consequences of teen pregnancy, statutory rape and the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. The revised curriculum would include these issues and more.

“We’re requesting the lessons be terminated that aren’t as impacting as the others,” said Trelstad. “However, we wanted to discuss it with the board first.”

This proposal would also affect middle and high school students, particularly ninth-graders. The curriculum would focus on healthy relationships for ninth graders, which according to Treslstad, has been neglected.

“We always talk about the dangers of being in a bad relationship, we have to focus on the other side too.”

The Okemos school district is an abstinence-based district. Abstinence is encouraged, but students are provided with information on how to protect themselves from STDs, teen pregnancy and more. Treslstad thinks this is the best route to go.

“Nearly 50 percent of high school students are sexually active so we will help both those who are sexually active and those who are abstinent,” said Treslstad.

Paul Butler, who attends school board meetings regularly and is father of two Okemos High School graduates and a current junior, supports the proposal.

“It was pretty straightforward,” said Butler. “I’m glad they came to the public first for us to judge rather than just going ahead with it.”

The Board then turned its attention to another hot topic, databases. Library Media Directors Sandy Fields and Cyndi Webster gave a presentation on how research databases benefit for students.

“People take articles from primary sources and put up electronically as references for school projects,” said Fields.

They showed various websites elementary and middle school students could use to find information quick and easy.

“Think of it as an online reference book,” said Webster, who is also a middle school teacher. “Kids want quick info that they can pull from multiple resources and it is easy to navigate.”

Fields and Webster are not alone in their support of electronic resources. So were the board members and Butler.

“I think it’s a good idea as long as you have fast Internet connection,” said Butler. “It’s especially good for the smaller age groups. I think it’s a good place to start.”

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