The Richmond Register

December 15, 2012

Madison County Schools - Board adopts new policy to streamline school trip approval

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — The Madison County School Board approved the final reading for a policy that streamlines out-of-state trip approval for both co-curricular activities and extracurricular sports competitions.

The issue had been discussed during several board meetings during the year as a measure to save time when approving the trips.

During the first 18 minutes of Thursday night’s action agenda, five sponsors approached the board with details about six out-of-state trips (four of which are extracurricular).

The new policy will, instead, place those trips on the consent agenda, which is adopted in one motion. The consent agenda items, including trip descriptions, are sent to the board members for review a week before the scheduled meeting.

All international trips are still required to be presented as an action item at the board meeting.

Board chair Mona Isaacs proposed the policy change as an “efficiency measure” to not only save time during a meeting but to spare the inconvenience to teachers, coaches and sponsors who must attend board meetings to present information about a trip, she said in November’s meeting.

However, board member John Lackey had some concerns about oversight on cheerleading and dance team trips, as he has expressed in the past.

Lackey mentioned a phone call he received from a parent who said the high school cheerleading teams had an opportunity to attend a regional qualifying competition in Lexington, but chose to attend competitions in Tennessee and Ohio instead.

The Madison Southern cheerleading coach, Michelle Devere, asked permission Thursday for a trip to an Ohio competition during which her team may qualify for a national competition in Orlando.

In the past, the co-ed team had attended a national competition in closer proximity but because there are not many teams that include male cheerleaders, they had no one to compete against, Devere said.

This year, the team did not attend the Nov. 30 qualifying competition in Lexington because several of the male cheerleaders on the team also are involved in football and there was a scheduling conflict, she said.  

Although Lackey said he would approve the MSHS trip to Ohio because they had a legitimate reason not to go to the Lexington competition this year, he “felt like I’ve been blind-sided to find out now that there’s this easy, other way to do it.”

This was the first time he had heard about the other qualifying competition opportunities that are closer and cheaper, he said.

Devere confirmed that the only cost difference between going to a competition in Lexington and a competition in Ohio or Tennessee is the traveling expenses. However, if the team qualified to move on to Orlando, “if we don’t raise the money, we won’t go,” according to the coach, who said the total cost of the trip would be around $16,800.

The price includes entry fees and lodging for all who attend, and the team was working on raising money to cover all the food. They would even prepare meals and freeze them to “try to be as money-savvy as possible,” Devere said.

Later in the action agenda, board members discussed adding more questions about student scholarship eligibility and fundraising details to the trip application.

Superintendent Tommy Floyd said the application is already thoroughly reviewed by the school’s principal and trip sponsors must be prepared to answer questions about how much school is missed, what is being done about students who can’t afford the trip and what are the requirements of being in the activity.

Lackey said adding these additional questions will be helpful, but the telephone call he alluded to earlier “really bothered him” even if he has to “take these reports with a grain of salt.”

“I have some real doubts that particularly those two groups (cheerleading and dance) have been supervised enough and questioned as to whether their budgets can be kept down so that kids out on Race Street and East Main Street can be cheerleaders, or does everybody have to be from West Main or Deacon Hills?” he asked. “That’s the problem with the cheerleaders. There’s an elitist group here and I don’t believe that Tommy Floyd is willing to take that on.”

Floyd said he would not bring coaches into his office to talk about the demographics of their cheerleaders because it was the role of the principals.

Isaacs interjected. The board has to “walk the line between being a policy-making body and an operational body,” she said. “We are a policy-making body.”

“If we don’t have any authority in our votes to do any policy-making and regulatory activity, then don’t bring it to the board,” Lackey said. “I don’t want to cast a vote that means nothing.”

From his understanding, Floyd responded, the vote was about switching out-of-state trips from the action agenda to the consent agenda, “not about whether those other issues are being raised.”

But Lackey said they were giving more authority to cheerleading and dance groups by this vote. “We’re taking away supervision that doesn’t amount to much already,” he said.

A prior agreement in November’s meeting, however, mandates that trip sponsors must submit an application at least two months in advance. If the trip does not pass the consent agenda during the first board meeting, the sponsor can be present at the following meeting to answer questions if the new policy was adopted.

Board member Beth Brock said it was not difficult to pull an item out of the consent agenda, which is sent to the board members a week in advance for review.

Part of the problem stemmed from difficulties Lackey encountered accessing the agenda’s email attachments that contained detailed information about each trip. Floyd assured him they could help out with any technical difficulties.

“As a booster parent and booster president, we never prevented a child from playing because they did not have the funds,” Brock said. “And with academics, you have to look at this — these cheerleaders have a cumulative GPA of 3.53.”

Brock’s daughter plays soccer and her grades are checked twice a week, she said. “It’s a motivator for a lot of these kids to keep their grades up, to play a sport they love.”

 In other business:

• Every district in Kentucky will ask for a 30-day waiver to complete school and district improvement plans. Typically released in September, state assessments were not released until November this year because of the implementation of the new accountability system. Each district has 90 days to complete districtwide assessments. Improvement plans are scheduled for completion on Feb. 1.

• A Dec. 1 districtwide student count revealed there are 306 preschool students enrolled in the district’s 10 elementary schools, up from 297 last year.  Of those 306, 115 are income-eligible and the other 191 are enrolled because of special needs. There are a total of 1,461 special education students in the district in all grade levels, down 85 from last year.

• Members of the Coordinated School Health team presented an annual report about school meals and the various physical activities that are being offered in schools. They also discuss benefits of their partnership with The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which was founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation (a more thorough examination of the health report will be published in an upcoming edition of the Register).

• Chief Academic Officer Randy Peffer reported the county’s middle schools had made “significant gains” in all areas of the EXPLORE test completed by the district’s eighth-graders this fall. High school 10th-graders were above state averages in all testing areas of the PLAN test, except for math. Both EXPLORE and PLAN are part of an ACT series of tests and are used in the state’s school assessment (look in Sunday’s paper for an article on EXPLORE and PLAN scores).

• One of the four Madison Central High School Science Olympiad teams will be competing in Ohio for the first time. The team is comprised of 15 of “the best of the best” science students who will compete against 60 teams at the competition. A Science Olympiad team also is being formed at Clark-Moores Middle School.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.