By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — The Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education received three pieces of good news at its Oct.14 meeting: Student numbers are up, the higher student count has led to the hiring of more staffing, and the recent anti-bullying event was a success.
DPS Supt. Brian Whiston said a districtwide student count was conducted on Oct. 2 and that the preliminary figure is 19,450 students, which is 255 more than the district had budgeted for.
The funding for the district is based off of a blend between the two yearly students counts, in February and October. Currently, the state pays $8,332 per full-time student enrolled in the district.
This is the 26th consecutive year of growth for the DPS, the third largest school district in the state.
DPS Communications Coordinator David Mustonen said the district has 30 days to audit and verify all of the submitted numbers.
He added that “students who may have been absent on the official count day can still be considered enrolled if the district can verify their enrollment within the 30-day window.”
Because of the additional students, the district had to bring in more faculty, which Whiston stated he was happy about.
“Having 255 students above what we budgeted is good because it allowed us to bring in about 20 more teachers,” Whiston said.
Whiston said that more than 60 people have been hired to accommodate the growing student body between teachers, instructional staff and administrators. Some of the hires were employees who had been previously laid off by the district.
Also at the Oct. 14 meeting, the board heard from Mustonen regarding the anti-bullying event that was held at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center Sept. 30.
The event was the kickoff for the district’s “Response to Bullying Program,” which was started in 2011 to identify, address and prevent bullying in the district’s schools. This year, the focus is on hurtful speech and the theme is “I was just kidding doesn’t count. If it hurts, it’s not funny!”
Mustonen said the event had good attendance and the stories told by the presenters were very emotional.
“A lot of the stories from our presenters and students really hit home with the whole premise of what we’re trying to do and get to the root of what people are really feeling,” Mustonen said. “They did a very good job.”
Several DPS and community leaders spoke at the event, including Whiston, Police Chief Ronald Haddad and DPS Board of Education Treasurer James Schoolmaster.
Mustonen also said the community response to the program has been great.
“When we started this initiative, we set out to make it a community effort, not just something found inside the schools,” Mustonen said. “There are several organizations within our community that we’ve partnered with, and many of them have began their own ‘response to bullying’ programs as a way to touch even more people outside of school. It’s really a testament to the program.”
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])