BERRIEN SPRINGS — The Berrien Springs school district had 33 incidents of bullying and harassment in the 2018-19 school year, Superintendent Dave Eichberg told school board members Thursday.
Eichberg said the district collects the bullying and harassment data every year but a recent change in state law requires the information to be presented publicly to the school board.
He said the most incidents, 18, occurred at the middle school with one incident at Mars Elementary, seven at Sylvester Elementary and seven at the high school. He reported that the incidents resulted in 45 days of detention and 18 days of suspension, as well as several that were resolved with restorative action.
Eichberg said restorative action took place at both elementary schools and at the middle school. He described it as a conference where trained adults bring the victim and the perpetrator together to resolve their issues with the involvement of parents, if they wish.
“Both learn from it and the perpetrator understands the severity of his or her actions,” he said. “It’s not just an adult grabbing the perpetrator and telling the person to say they’re sorry.”
Thursday’s meeting also featured reports on the spring 2019 state testing results and the June 2020 high school trip to Costa Rica.
Curriculum Director Angie Cramer took board members through the spring state testing results which included reporting on how district students fared in comparison to county and state averages in English, math, social studies and science.
Berrien Springs scored better than the state average in 10 of 21 different areas in 2019 and in just eight of 21 categories in 2018. As for comparisons to other county school districts, Berrien Springs was one of the top scoring districts in some subjects and grades, and one of the lower scoring in others.
In English Language Arts, the district scores were above the state average in the fourth, sixth and seventh grades, as well as in the 10th and 11th grades. In math testing, the district scores were above the state average in the sixth, seventh and ninth grades. Social studies scores were above the state in the eighth and 11th grades.
Cramer and Eichberg said teachers and administrators are working to develop strategies to address areas where student scores are lower than the district would like.
Cramer said teachers have been looking over the results and discussing whether things like demographics, the switch to standards-based grading or even students’ lack of transportation to get to school early for extra help could be reasons.
She said that Mars Principal Dee Voss is sharing third-grade test scores with kindergarten through second grade teachers. “Some were dumbfounded. They hadn’t seen the data before and now they know where to look,” she said. “At Sylvester and the middle school, they’re seeing where the needs are and giving very focused support to students.”
High school history teacher John Vitek reported on plans to travel to Costa Rica June 8-16, 2020. He and other teachers took students to Italy and Greece this summer and are now planning to go to Costa Rica. “We were planning to take a year off, but the kids started coming to me and their parents too,” he said.
He said they decided on Costa Rica because they wanted something more adventure oriented and the country is consider safe and offers opportunities to see a very diverse animal and plant population, as well as visit volcanoes, rain forests, mountains and beaches, plus do ziplining and kayaking.
He said the goal is to limit the number of students to 18. The cost is expected to be around $2,300 per student, which is less than the $4,000 it cost students to go to Europe. Vitek said plans are to go back to Europe in 2021.