March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Lansing School Board approves restructuring plan in a newfound atmosphere of cooperation

Thursday, March 22 — The aura of tonight’s Lansing Board of Education meeting can be summed up in a moment.

Board member Amy Hodgin asked Tim Russ, a teacher at Sexton High School, to approach the front of the room. She gave him a hug. Hodgin said Russ’ comments nearly brought her to tears — tears of joy or possibly relief.

During public comment on the administration's new district-wide restructuring plan, Russ approached the podium and said the meeting, the mood and the plan were a “refreshing experience.”

“I never once felt compelled to yell, ‘Liar!’ I never once felt compelled to bite my tongue,” he said regarding the testimony given by Interim Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul and the school district administration. “It’s a revolution, a reset, a revolution, whatever you want to say.”

He said it was nice to feel appreciated as a teacher and not be accused as being part of the problem.

Russ’ words concluded a series of comments made by community and board members who seemed overcome with joy and relief by the 8-1 vote approving the restructuring plan. Charles Ford was the lone dissenting vote.

The plan calls for a radical change to the district structure. Schools will now be divided into pre-kindergarten through third grade, fourth through sixth and seventh through 12th. No high schools will be closed, a relief to community members representing Sexton and Eastern high schools who fought to keep those schools open. Bingham, Otto, Elmhurst and Wainwright will be closed but programs they feature will be moved to other schools.

There was applause following each of the board members’ thoughts and feelings before the vote.

After the vote came down, applause filled the room. Cammal Canul stood up from her seat, walked across the room and gave hugs to each of the administration members and several board members.

The question is: Will the peace last throughout the school shifting process?