​Schools Policy Changes; Cell Phone Policy Unchanged

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Aug. 12 meeting, the Franklin County School Board approved 14 of 16 Tennessee School Board Association policy recommendations. The board will take up the student-cell-phone-use policy pending committee review. The board also discussed budget concerns, the Sherwood community center renovation, and progress on the new middle schools.

“The cell phone policy now is ‘no cell phones,’” stressed Director of Schools Stanley Bean. “The policy needs to be enforced.” Bean said some teachers allowed cell phone use in their classes creating controversy.

Bean will convene a committee to access where the cell phone violations occur, when, and how many students were sent to Alternative School for cell phone violations. Board member Linda Jones will serve on the committee.

Board Chair Cleijo Walker said according to students she met with, “The violations are overwhelmingly occurring in the cafeteria.”

Board member Chris Guess predicted an increase in cyber bullying with a more lenient cell phone policy.

Most of the TSBA policy recommendations were verbiage clarification or involved only minor changes said Assistant Superintendent Linda Foster. Foster provided an overview of significant changes and additions.

The Testing Programs policy now calls for career assessment testing in the seventh or eighth grade. The policies addressing Separation Practices for tenured and non-tenured teachers provide for the board requesting suspension of a teacher’s license. The Family and Medical Leave policy added “paternity leave.” The new Students from Military Families policy provides for special circumstances related to relocation and deployment. The Attendance policy added a clause allowing attendance to factor into credit or promotion denial.

Taking up the Bus Safety and Conduct policy, the board discussed possible ramifications in allowing parents to view video footage from bus cameras when used. Confidentiality agreement laws require the schools to protect the identity of other students in the video, Foster pointed out. “I’m not sure how we’ll deal with this.”

The Graduation Requirements policy added the requirement of passing the civics test. Secondary Supervisor Diane Spaulding said students would be allowed to take the exam until they passed.

In discussion about the Emergency Preparedness Plan policy, Guess suggested removing the word “armed” from the requirement for “armed intruder” drills. Foster will research the legality of removing the word “armed.”

“We’ve never done a drill with an armed intruder,” said Athletic Director Mark Montoye.

The Fundraising policy requires the board to approve all fundraisers. Foster will research whether approval could be assigned to the director of schools.

Turning to enrollment for the 2019-20 school year, Foster said an additional teacher would probably be needed at Decherd Elementary.

Bean pointed out that when making budget cuts, “We took out the $200,000 for hiring additional teachers.”

“We don’t have any elementary applicants,” Foster added. “It’s really scary.”

The school board plans to hold a workshop in October to look at possible budget cuts for the 2020-21 school year.

Guess said he expected the percent of property tax money the schools received would probably decrease again next year.

Kathy Pack addressed the board on behalf of the Sherwood Crow Creek Community Center board. Pack said Don Spanos who was overseeing the renovation was taking care of the surveying requirements. Bean said the lease contract would also need to address maintenance of the well, which serves both the community center and convenience center. The community center was formerly the Sherwood Elementary School. The county drilled the well when the school was built.

Updating the school board on the progress of the new middle schools, Construction Manager Gary Clardy said addressing sinkhole problems at South Middle School “was an expensive process. Fortunately we have money set aside for things like this.”

Clardy said the project was “on budget and on schedule.” He acknowledged getting the gyms ready by mid-October “will be a struggle because we had to wait on things.”