Franklin County Schools: No More Corporal Punishment

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the May 8 meeting in a near-unanimous decision, the Franklin County School Board voted to no longer allow corporal punishment as a disciplinary practice. The board also voted to approve the 2023-2024 budget drawing on the reserve fund balance to pay for contract bus driver wage increases and a new roof at Clark Memorial School. An opening ceremony honored teacher of the year awardees.

The board’s vote to prohibit corporal punishment affirmed a vote by school principals. Nine principals favored no longer allowing corporal punishment, one principal favored continuing to allow the practice, and one principal was “indifferent,” according to board member Sara Liechty who attended the principals’ meeting addressing the topic. Asked to comment on the decision, rising Director of Schools Cary Holeman said, “As a district, our focus has got to be the academic wellbeing of children. We’re not in the business of hitting a child. We don’t ever want to stand the risk of being in a courtroom … from someone putting accusations out someone from the school district has caused harm to their child … As a district we’re saying we’re going to put restorative practices in place, why would we entertain using corporal punishment when it causes a trigger [for negative behavior] to be reset in a child.”

Board member Erik Cole who favored continuing to allow corporal punishment said, “I’m not in favor of taking away tools from teachers and principals. I got my fair share of [paddlings], and it worked okay for me.” Liechty countered, “In 2014 when I brought this before the board, the first argument given was ‘It is a tool of principals.’ We as a district now are giving our teachers and principals better and stronger tools and more effective tools.”

Taking up other discipline related policies, the board approved a Code of Conduct, a Dress Code, and a policy governing use of Cell Phones and Communication Devices. In keeping with the principals’ request, cell phones are not allowed in grades K through 5, unless the principal determines a “special circumstance” exists.

Two board members had been contacted by bus drivers wanting guidelines about use of cell phones on buses. Director of Schools Stanley Bean expressed concern about the “distraction” for bus drivers trying to monitor cell phone use. Vice Chair Lance Williams pointed out bus drivers were “contract” labor, not district employees. “We can give them standing operating procedures,” Williams said. “Legally it would be debatable whether we could give them a policy.” The board decided to defer a decision on the question to the new Director of Schools, Holman, who will officially assume his role in July.

In the budget discussion, Human Resources Supervisor Linda Foster said by the proposed Classified Employees pay scale, “No one will make less than $14 per hour.” The certified pay scale proposes a 10 percent increase for teachers and principals. Bean said assessment revealed the roof repair needed at Clark Memorial Elementary was “far worse than anticipated” and a $200,000 excess in ESSER funds would not be sufficient to cover the cost of the repair, estimated at $1.5 million. In figuring the budget, County Finance Director Andrea Smith allowed for a $1.1 million draw from the fund balance to cover the cost, with the remainder coming from the Capital Outlay budget. The $1.1 million draw would leave $8,974,000 in the reserve fund balance, Smith said.

Smith’s draft budget had not yet incorporated a raise for bus drivers. She said a 10 percent increase on the per-bus base rate would cost the district $78,000 and a 10 percent increase on the entire contract, which included supplements based on mileage and seats, would cost the district $195,000. Liechty said, the district gave the drivers a “nice” increase last year to “catch up” with neighboring districts, and she did not want to see the district having to “catch up” again. Board chair Linda Jones expressed concern about repeated draws on the fund balance for wage increases. After long discussion, the board voted for a 10 percent base rate increase and a 5 percent increase on the seat and mileage supplements.

Teacher of the year awardees for grades Pre-K through 4 were Erin Wallace, Broadview Elementary; Kayla Damron, Clark Memorial School; Tammy Hatfield, Cowan Elementary; Shaunna Fortier, Decherd Elementary; Jennifer Jackson, Huntland Elementary; Rebekah Warmbrod, North Lake Elementary; Kelly Harper, Rock Creek Elementary; and Jalee DiBernardo, Sewanee Elementary. Awardees for grades 5 through 8 were Cindy Garrett, Huntland Middle School; Lesley Thomas, North Middle School; and Sharon Saylor, South Middle School. High school awardees were Marty Bishop, Franklin County High School, and Ashley Fitch, Huntland High School. The Franklin County Educational Association for Excellence recognized the awardees with a $200 cash gift. Receiving district wide recognition were DiBernardo, elementary school; Saylor, middle school; and Bishop, high school. The district-wide awardees were honored with a $600 gift from the Penn Foundation.

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