The Richmond Register

June 15, 2013

School board splits 3-2 on policy updates

Nondiscrimination statement draws questions

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

MADISON COUNTY — The Madison County School Board approved 3-2 Thursday night the first reading of board policy updates for 2013-14.

Board members will have 30 days to look over the updates and report any questions or concerns they have before second reading.

School districts participate with a Kentucky School Board Association policy advisory group that updates board policy as legislation changes, Superintendent Tommy Floyd said.

The advisers send a list of edits to be made to the policy document each year and district administrators are given a chance to look over the edits and make notes in the margin.

“We’re not looking at the entire policy procedure manual, we’re only looking at the edits,” Floyd said. Some of the policy edits were locally generated, he said. “We all had a part in this.”

Parts of the document are color-coded to indicate which edits were suggested by the school district and which are suggested by the state.

Board member John Lackey, who printed his copy in black and white and did not see the color coding, asked for a color copy of the document.

“I printed it and it’s 85 pages,” board member Mary Renfro said.

“That’s why we sent it to you electronically,” Floyd replied.

Lackey questioned a few policy edits.

“There’s recently been this dust up about the Boy Scouts and the gays. I see that they (Boy Scouts) are being given a special privilege in there on the first page … it looks to me like its a special discrimination as a result of this recent problem the Boys Scouts are having with some of the churches sponsoring their troops. I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

“I see no real point in giving special favor to that group ... it’s just like all youth groups,” he said.

Lackey was referring to a segment of the district’s “notice of nondiscrimination” that states: “...and provides equal access to its facilities to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups.”

Assistant superintendent Dr. Kevin Hub said the district had a pre-approved notice of nondiscrimination through the federal Office for Civil Rights.

Early this spring, Hub said a state group visited the district to monitor how well it was complying with civil rights and workplace accommodation requirements.

“At that time, it was recommended by the state that we use the Boy Scouts’ included notice of nondiscrimination,” Hub said.

The district’s leadership team initially thought it was appropriate to just use the federally approved notice of nondiscrimination. But later, the new notice (that includes the Boy Scouts) was approved and recommended by the Kentucky School Board Association, so the team decided to go with the recommendation, Hub said.

“(KSBA) is not sending it out to 172 districts if they don’t think it’s right,” he said.

Floyd said the district will send a list of the board’s questions and concerns to the KSBA.

Board member Beth Brock asked if board members had not come to a conclusion about certain policies by the next meeting, would they be obligated to approve the manual, or could they have more time.

Floyd said the board would have to move forward with the non-discrimination statement for it to be included in the new district handbooks, but inserts could be distributed later, he said.

“The schools operate under the umbrella of your policies and procedures,” Floyd said. “We can make it work, and we want you to be comfortable with what you approve. The first reading tonight only starts the ball rolling.”

Board member Becky Coyle, board chair Mona Isaacs and Brock all voted to approve the first reading of the policy manual, but Lackey and Renfro did not.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Renfro said. “I think we need to look at it more.”

“Well, we’ve got 30 days,” Coyle replied.

“It scares me," Renfro said. “There’s a lot of stuff here.”

Floyd’s final superintendent report

Floyd, who has accepted a job with the Kentucky Department of Education, will begin his new position July 1.

Thursday, he started his final report by thanking the board.

“I think this is one of the greatest places that exists to serve kids, despite its detractors, or whatever; it’s a great place,” Floyd said.

Floyd reported the district ended the year with just three high school dropouts, down from six the previous year.

When Floyd first came to Madison County Schools in 2006, the district had around 80 dropouts, he said.

“I can’t thank enough the folks at the high schools and other places that have provided multiple avenues for kids to find success and find a diploma,” Floyd said.

The superintendent also thanked the individuals he has met who “watch our board meetings by video,” he said. “I just want to thank you all for your encouragement and support. I have a great deal of confidence in the five people I sit beside tonight. They’re going to come up with a great choice (for superintendent), and its going to continue to be a great place to work and to be a kid.”

DreamBox math program purchase

The board approved a bulk purchase of the DreamBox Learning program, a web-based online math program, which is used in all 10 elementary schools. The cost is $62,800.

Elementary schools could purchase the program separately and would not be required to seek permission from the board. However, purchasing the program in bulk saves each school around $1,000, said instructional supervisor Mendy Mills.

The program is designed for kindergarten through sixth grade, so “it allows a fifth-grade student who is working ahead to advance,” she said.

Students are using the program during summer school and students district-wide logged more than 40,000 hours at school and at home during the 2012-13 school year. That’s a total of more than 200,000 lessons in DreamBox.

“It is individually based,” Mills said. “If I were a classroom teacher and I had 20 students, I can assign my 20 students a totally different lesson based on what their need is.”

The program is aligned to the new state-adopted Common Core Standards and it is continually being updated, she said.

The district is into its fourth year using DreamBox.

In other business:

• The board renewed a contract with One Call Now, an automated notification system that allows the district to keep parents informed of school information through text, email and phone calls.

The district began the program four years ago, and “some people love all the calls and some people do not, but we are communicating,” said Randy Neeley, who the board named interim superintendent Thursday night.

The price of the program has gone down. Last year, it was $1.65 per student and cost $17,599. This year, the program is $1.50 per student and will cost $16,239.

“I like your service,” said Renfro, who has two children and three foster children in the school system. “It’s nice to be kept in the loop.”

• The board decided to continue a contract with Graham Photography for student pictures next year. The district has used the company for five years.

Renfro suggested allowing some of the students who are interested in photography to take some of the school pictures in the future because of the district’s focus on college and career readiness, she said.

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