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Springfield district continues bullying program

11/29/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

SPRINGFIELD — Spring Hill Junior High School counselor Laura Lach is beginning a second year as the club adviser for an anti-bullying and conflict resolution program called PEARL created at the school.

Lach said she and her students developed PEARL, which stands for Peace, Equality, Acceptance, Respect and Love, last year, and thanks to the response of interested students, the program is returning this year. The Springfield Local Schools Board of Education approved her appointment as club adviser at the Nov. 20 meeting.

Lach said the program includes seventh- and eighth-graders who have undergone some training to be part of a mediation team designed to help other students learn how to resolve conflicts without the use of violence. She also said she and the team members attended a conference to gather information on the effort, and team members wear T-shirts to identify themselves.

“This is something the students wanted to continue to make the school a better place for learning, which can’t occur if you are scared,” she said. “PEARL helps create a place to belong and feel safe.”

Lach said the eighth-graders serve as mentors and lead in the efforts, while the seventh-graders follow along. She added the students’ efforts focus on positive peer mediation, activities, small-group activities and learning how to help as bystanders when witnessing incidents.

“This is all about helping one another,” said Lach. “I was surprised how many kids since the program first began last March — 40 at first and 12 this year — have become involved. This is totally a volunteer effort, and the kids were totally pushing to continue this.”

Lach said students meet on a regular basis after school and run the meetings themselves. The meetings are used to develop activities that foster anti-bullying. She added those involved in mediation meet after school in her office to talk about issues that make them angry.

“I teach them to walk the talk, and to seek out a trusted adult if they see something going on,” said Lach. “Kids are helping kids in this effort, and this works better because they listen to one another. The kids see potential problems all around them. This is all about raising awareness, speaking the same language and positive communication to help one another.”

Also at the meeting, Treasurer Chris Adams reported that at four months into the year, revenue from real estate collections for the district is tracking at 6.5 percent less than last year to date.

“This is due to valuations being challenged, mostly by commercial properties,” said Adams. “This is a little concerning.”

He also said expenditures for the district are up 5 percent over last year at the same time, but he also expects spending to drop.

“We are still healthy and tracking well, but we must continue to be diligent,” said Adams.

Superintendent Bill Stauffer reported that about 80 residents attended tours of the new building offered on two recent Saturdays. He added the tours will resume in the spring.

Stauffer also said banners created for the Countdown to First Night Calendar project at Lock 3 in Downtown Akron by Springfield art students will be unveiled today, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. The banners are part of the Countdown to First Night effort sponsored by Akron Community Foundation and feature hand-painted artwork created by area schools, churches, community centers and ethnic and civic groups that illustrate an expression of the winter holiday season.

In other business, the board approved eight personnel items, including nine winter sports supplemental contracts and six volunteer coaches, and awarded more than $1.2 million in bids and contracts for loose furnishings, classroom furnishings and technology for the new school being built for students in grades seven through 12.

Board members Mary Lou Dodson and Bobby Dinkins were absent from the meeting.

The next board meeting is set for Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. in the Administration Building, 2960 Sanitarium Road.

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