2011-07-28 / Front Page

SF Debates New Policies

Several policies tabled for further discussion
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

What appeared to be a short agenda on paper, turned into a lengthy process last Tuesday when the Southern Fulton School Board turned its sights on newly proposed policies.

Penned by legal counsel at the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA), the policies presented to the district are typically given an initial nod of approval as well as a second vote of approval the following month. On July 19, the board quickly approved a second reading of a total of 16 policies dealing with tobacco use, fiscal objectives, service animals in school and even public attendance at school events before moving on to the deletion of four policies involving disqualification by reason of health and pupil relations with law enforcement agencies.

A list of 12 new policies suggested by PSBA were then offered up to the board for a first reading, with only eight receiving approval as presented. Two policies dealing with Local Board Procedures, Organization and Pupils, Searches were amended from their original form.

In touching on searching, the board collectively agreed law enforcement should be involved when it comes down to checking students thoroughly. Board President Kenny Wuertenberg went on to say he felt schools take things too far when looking into kids’ cellphones and text messages.

Those policies not making the cut at this time were Pupils, Student Discipline and Pupils, Controlled Substances / Paraphernalia. Having taken issue with a segment that references the district disciplining students for conduct travelling to and from school, Wuertenberg vehemently expressed that he took issue with disciplining children for what they do on their time in their vehicle or a parent’s vehicle.

“I’m troubled by the fact our arms can reach out and grab them after school,” stated the board president.

Fellow board member Patrick Bard also asked where the district and board draws the line. “You have a little thumb pressure on them ... at times I think we’re overstepping our boundaries,” said Bard.

Wuertenberg said he also took issue with the phrase “reasonable force” being included in the policy, especially whenever they are unable to use corporal punishment. Wuertenberg requested that the district use “minimal force” and training be offered to staff.

“I have to trust my teachers with reasonable force if a student needs to be pulled away from a fight,” countered Superintendent Kendra Trail. “If I can’t trust my teachers to use reasonable force then I shouldn’t trust them in a classroom.”

As a result of the prolonged discussion on the two policies and the varying comments, the superintendent was asked to pin down PSBA for further comment on the issues.

In other agenda matters, the board accepted a letter of resignation from assistant junior high boys basketball coach Justin Sholes retroactive to the conclusion of the 2010-11 school year. A second letter of resignation was approved as presented by National Honor Society advisor Cynthia Layton.

Special education supervisor Diane Younker recognized Americorp worker Kelly Sipes, who aided her department during the 2010-11 school year. Given her dedication, Sipes only missed two days of work but volunteered an additional four days.

Younker pointed out Sipes cannot take the place of a furloughed employee and works at no cost to the district.

“Our school is a better place with Kelly,” said Younker.

The board closed out its meeting with a special “Year in Review” led by the superintendent and fellow administrators. The group detailed highlights of the last school year as well as their plans for the future.

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