News
Student, staff safety is district priority

By John McLoone

Parents dropping off and picking up their kids from Hastings Public Schools buildings may have noted additional police presence at the facilities after the shooting that claimed the lives of 19 students and two adults at a school in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, May 24.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Mc-Dowell addressed the Hastings School Board on the matter at its meeting Wednesday, May 25.

“We’ve had a couple questions about safety and security, and this comes up anytime these situations arise, whether they are close to home or arise nationwide. The question always comes up, what are we doing? What plans do we have in place? I wanted to take a moment to remind our community that the safety of our students and our staff is our number one priority. We have to have that,” said McDowell.

The district has emergency plans in place and works handin- hand with local law enforcement and emergency services.

“We do have systems and processes in place. We practice those systems and processes on a regular basis at each of our buildings with our staff and students,” he said. “In this event, as an example, yesterday afternoon, we were in communication with our district team. We were in communication with our building teams, trying to insure, even though it’s not related or close to home, what is the plan? What do we need to do? What do we need to have in place? If it were closer that would escalate into our emergency response planning, which is a huge set of processes and protocols. It’s something that we work on in conjunction with our local law enforcement.”

Hastings Police Department provided the extra security presence last week. “For families that were dropping off their kids today, they most likely saw extra squad cars around all of our buildings. That’s how in tune our local law enforcement is with our schools,” said McDowell. “They came out of the gates and said, ‘We will have extra law enforcement out and about just because we feel people are going to need to know we’re here.’” “I just wanted to let people know that even though an event takes place so far away, it does put us into a spot that we are responding to and trying to make sure that we are taking care of our staff and our kids,” said McDowell.

Board members asked to be briefed on district security protocols in a closed session at a coming meeting.

In other board business: School board director Mike Reis was absent from the meeting, the 昀rst regular school board meeting since the board voted 4-2 on May 2 to censure him for his conduct toward administration and for sharing information from a memorandum to board members from the school district attorney that was marked con昀dential. The censure resolution stipulated that Reis’ interactions with district staff are restricted, pending review on 30-day cycles. Reis left the last regular school board meeting in April early, saying he had another commitment. The discipline matter came up after he had departed, and he also didn’t attend the special meeting held 昀ve days later.

Board Chairman Brian Davis attended the meeting remotely from Paris. A computer monitor with a video feed from his location was present at his board seat.

At one point, he commented that it was after 2:30 a.m. if he looked haggard.

Mindy Tavernier was recognized by staff as the district Employee of the Year.

See Page 2 3 McDowell said that on a monthly basis, an employee is chosen and twice a year they are recognized by the school board.

All employees then vote on one of those employees of the semester as the district employee of the year. Tavernier is an assistant principal at Hastings Middle School.

Tavernier was appreciative of the honor.

“Thank you,” she said. “It’s been overwhelming.”

She said she has heard from peers from throughout her teaching career congratulating her on the honor.

“Everyone has been part of this journey with me,” she said.

Election change to be discussed Director Carrie Tate suggested that the board discuss changing its current elections to coincide with state and national races.

Right now, the district has its elections on odd-numbered years where it’s likely the only races on the ballot, meaning there’s much more work that has to be done by the district to run the elections. The change would be to hold the elections in even-numbered years, when national, state and municipal races are held.

“That is a way to get away from the costs that we incur with having to have off-year elections, as well as that it eliminates the confusion as far as where do people vote, because you vote in your normal voting location,” she said.

“That’s a really good point,” board vice chair Stephanie Malm said. Malm presided over the meeting with Davis “attending” remotely.

“It is costly to run the elections as a district on our own,” said Malm, in addition to the time it takes district staff to run the elections. “It’s de昀nitely a concern and something we’ll have to visit,” said Malm.

“I would certainly support having that conversation,” said director Lisa Hedin.

The change would require changing the length of the terms of of昀ce of school board members if an election year change is made.

June 1, 2022