School board re­views hand­book in spe­cial meet­ing

The Saline Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Elisha Morrison el­[email protected]­ton­courier.com

Dur­ing a spe­cial meet­ing of the Benton School Board on Mon­day, the board re­viewed up­dates and changes to the stu­dent hand­book.

As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent Eric Saun­ders pre­sented changes to the stu­dent hand­book.

“I want to com­mend him for his work on these poli­cies,” said Su­per­in­ten­dent Dr. Mike Skel­ton.

Saun­ders told the board the changes come from a com­bi­na­tion of clean­ing up lan­guage, lo­cal pro­pos­als and rec­om­men­da­tions from the Arkansas School Board As­so­ci­a­tion.

He said many of the changes deal with chang­ing words and tech­ni­cal cleanup.

Chair of the Per­son­nel Pol­icy Com­mit­tee Tamme Adams also spoke to bring up con­cerns she has re­ceived from teach­ers re­gard­ing some of the changes.

Saun­ders said a change to the ab­sence pol­icy would al­low fresh­men and sopho­mores to take one col­lege and ca­reer day each se­mes­ter and in­crease ju­niors and se­niors to two per se­mes­ter in or­der to give them more op­por­tu­ni­ties to be ex­posed to fu­ture op­tions. Forms must be turned in and ap­proved for the ab­sences not to count against them.

Adams said teach­ers are con­cerned that the pol­icy would give some stu­dents up to five

ex­cused ab­sences which would cost them ed­u­ca­tion. She said stu­dents could tour col­leges on Satur­days, breaks and dur­ing the sum­mer.

“We want kids to look at their fu­ture op­tions but not at the point it would sac­ri­fice their cur­rent ed­u­ca­tion,” Adams said.

Other teach­ers in the au­di­ence ex­pressed con­cern that on top of other ac­tiv­i­ties, such as sports, that take them out of the class­room, these ex­tra days would harm stu­dents.

The board dis­cussed changes made to poli­cies re­gard­ing how much and what a child can charge at the cafe­te­ria due to the re­cent pas­sage of Act 428. Saun­ders ex­plained the law no longer per­mit­ted al­ter­nate meals or lim­its on how much a stu­dent can charge.

The board was con­cerned how the school would re­coup money lost when charges go un­paid.

Skel­ton told the board it is of­ten not the low­in­come

stu­dents who are charg­ing.

The board ques­tioned the word­ing on the change in the hand­book that said the school would re­fer par­ents to the Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices for ex­ces­sive pick-ups af­ter 3:30 p.m.

The board mem­bers were con­cerned about the def­i­ni­tion of ex­ces­sive and how they can be sure the rule is equally ap­plied. Saun­ders said he would go back to the com­mit­tee to de­fine a set num­ber.

Saun­ders said the school’s dis­hon­esty pol­icy re­gard­ing pla­gia­rism is be­ing changed to re­move the line that says no credit will be given for the as­sign­ment and adds that the stu­dent will be re­quired to redo the as­sign­ment. He said the point is for the stu­dent to still learn and be pun­ished for the vi­o­la­tion.

Adams and the teach­ers ex­pressed con­cern about the change. They felt if teach­ers can give credit for the re­done work there will be is­sues of not all teach­ers ap­ply­ing it evenly. She felt some teach­ers

may give full credit, some half, some none and some a dif­fer­ent per­cent­age and then stu­dents and par­ents com­plain.

Board Pres­i­dent Dio Van­nucci said if its automatica­lly no credit stu­dents will not ac­tu­ally redo the as­sign­ment.

Adams said they would like to see a more spe­cific pol­icy.

Saun­ders said the changes to the drug and al­co­hol pol­icy clean up and sim­plify the lan­guage. It re­moves first and sec­ond of­fense and sim­ply lays out the pos­si­ble con­se­quences for vi­o­la­tions.

Adams said she feels the change leaves it too open and is con­cerned the con­se­quences could be ap­plied un­evenly.

Due to changes in the law, the hand­book had to be up­dated al­low­ing stu­dents who are sus­pended or ex­pelled to still re­ceive ed­u­ca­tion and en­gage­ment.

Adams was con­cerned about what con­sti­tutes en­gage­ment.

The board dis­cussed that part of that depends on if a child has ac­cess to a com­puter and the in­ter­net. Saun­ders said they were try­ing to bal­ance between of­fer­ing the chil­dren what they need and not putting ex­ces­sive work on teach­ers to pre­pare work for chil­dren who will be out.

The hand­book also clar­i­fied con­se­quences for fight­ing. Saun­ders said it al­lows for flex­i­bil­ity between a fight between kinder­garten­ers and a fist fight between se­niors.

Adams said the teach­ers are con­cerned that could open up the con­se­quences to bias.

The board told her that this is an area where they have to trust ad­min­is­tra­tors to do what is right.

“You can’t reg­u­late ev­ery pos­si­ble sce­nario,” said Board Mem­ber

Jar­rod Ham­bric.

Adams was also con­cerned about rules that say a stu­dent can­not be de­nied honor grad­u­ate sta­tus due to hav­ing to use al­ter­nate ed­u­ca­tion for ex­ces­sive ab­sences. She said honor grad­u­ates should be hon­or­able in ev­ery way.

She said the teach­ers also want to have more spe­cific rules on what ab­sences could be ap­proved that would al­low stu­dents to make up im­por­tant tests.

“A lot of this comes from hav­ing a dis­trictwide hand­book,” she said.

Other changes dis­cussed in­cluded:

•Clar­i­fy­ing proof of res­i­dence.

•Clar­i­fy­ing ab­sences and when to make re­ports on ab­sences.

•Re­plac­ing CAPS with Stu­dent Suc­cess Plans.

•Changes to check-out pro­ce­dures.

•Re­mov­ing school vis­i­tor rules for fac­ulty.

•Mov­ing be­fore and af­ter school pro­ce­dures to build­ing pro­ce­dures .

•Es­tab­lish­ing clear con­se­quences for skip­ping de­ten­tion.

•Adding to the dress code that straps on tops should be no less than three fin­gers wide and shorts must be as long as the tips of a stu­dent’s fin­gers

•Adding theft of per­sonal prop­erty and pos­ses­sion of drug para­pher­na­lia to pro­hib­ited con­duct.

Saun­ders plans to make the pro­posed changes and present the hand­book at the July 8 meet­ing of the Benton School Board.

Other ac­tions and dis­cus­sions of the board dur­ing the spe­cial meet­ing will be in Wed­nes­day’s edi­tion of The Sa­line Courier.

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