The principal at Hawkins Elementary School in Brighton, a school recently plagued by student disciplinary problems, has resigned to accept a position in a neighboring district.

Basia Kiehler, the principal for the past five years at Hawkins, has been hired as the new curriculum director in the Pinckney Community Schools. Pinckney Superintendent Rick Todd confirmed Thursday that Kiehler has accepted the position of director of curriculum, assessment and instruction. She will start her new duties on July 1st. Kiehler tells WHMI that while she’s “sad about leaving Brighton,” she’s “excited” about her new position, saying curriculum has always been her passion, while adding she has considerable experience in that field.

But it was a rocky road for Kiehler, the teachers and students at Hawkins during the 2018-19 academic year. A large contingent of Hawkins teachers showed up at the Brighton Board of Education meeting on May 28th to express frustration about a lack of discipline at the school, which houses the majority of the district’s special education students, although some parents have said discipline among regular students has also been lacking. One parent told the board that the frequent disruptions can result in 2-3 classroom evacuations a day, which reduces the amount of student instructional time and is a stress factor on students and teachers.

The teachers, who are members of the Brighton Education Association, subsequently filed a Level III grievance with the school district in regard to the matter. According to a district administrator, the majority of the problem lies with a law that states school personnel cannot touch a student, which he said makes it almost impossible to impose discipline on students with behavioral problems. The only exception to the law is if the student becomes a danger to himself or others. The state law (Public Act 394), passed in December of 2016, is known as the Seclusion and Restraint Law. The law was promoted by former Lt. Governor Brian Calley, who has a child with Autism. However, Calley says the law is being misinterpreted by legal counsel for school districts, saying they need to read it thoroughly and check with the Michigan Dept. of Education for the proper guidance on interpreting and applying the law.

Brighton Superintendent Greg Gray tells WHMI that administration will review procedures and policies at Hawkins this summer, saying, “We are always looking at better ways of doing things,” adding, in his words, “We’ll get together with the new principal and set goals for the coming year.” Gray says the district has posted the vacancy and it will remain posted for three weeks, after which a committee composed of administrators, building representatives and the new assistant superintendent for labor relations and personnel will meet and make a recommendation.

In addition to having been a teacher and principal in the Brighton Area Schools, Kiehler has worked for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and the Livingston Educational Service Agency, which is Livingston County’s ISD, as an assessment literacy consultant. She also has done curriculum work while serving as principal at Hawkins. Kiehler’s resignation, which will be formally acted on by the board Monday night, will become effective June 30th. (TT)