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Longtime Office Secretary Retires, Middle School Principal Resigns

By Sue Curry Jones

In closed session last Thursday, Ava R-1 school board members accepted the retirement resignation of Beverly Johnson who has worked in the school district for 41 years. Johnson has plans to remain in the current position through the month of July and help finalize the year-end audit.

Additional changes in personnel include:

Charity Bentley, high school science teacher, tendered a letter of resignation.

Laura Walker stepped down as sponsor of Pep Club, and Trisha Haltom, high school science teacher, opted to assume the duty for 2012-13.

According to Supt. Brian Wilson, middle school principal Cody Hirschi, has verbally given notifica­tion that he has accepted a job in the Fort Osage School district, near Kansas City, Mo.

During the meeting, Ava Kiwanis Club was recognized for their many contribu­tions to students and district programs. A note of appreciation was expressed to club members for the following student initia­tives –– Terrific Kids, Parents-As-Teachers Christmas Craft Night, and high school citizen of the month program.

B.J. Sterling and Airin Roberts were acknowledged for coordinating the mock crash docu-drama last month on the school campus. The production illustrated to students that driving distracted is a deadly decision, and always fastening your seat belt has life-saving importance.

Both groups were presented with a certificate of appreciation for their efforts.

The board voted Marsha Aborn as delegate to the Missouri School Board Assn. for the ensuing school year.  Johnny Burkdoll was chosen alternate representative.

Each year school board members are provided with changes for the student handbooks. These revisions are submitted by each principal and placed in the hands of the board for review and final approval. The policy modifications provided to the board last Thursday encompassed about nine pages of proposed changes for the 2012-13 school year, many of the changes are targeting student discipline.  Below are a few of the changes, with most of these cited as they were given to the board:

In the high school book, page 27, any student who is on a special pass/fail grading system is excluded from class ranking even if they have only one class that is pass/fail;  page 27, any student who completes a class through completion of credit will receive a 60% or D- on their transcript;  page 35, weapons in school – change expelled to suspended for a period of 1 to 180 days; page 37, Prom/Dance policy – tie in attendance, 95% or above for the semester, and random drug screening;  add: students who have graduated from high school must submit a cleared background check prior to approval.

Elementary handbook revisions:  page 7, add: there will be a sliding fee charged daily to students who attend our full-day program. The charge is based on parent income; page 10, revise to read: Special diets must be documented by a physician and the physician’s note should be on file in the nurse’s office; page 13, correct daily schedule, as follows,

3:10 p.m. Instruction ends

3:15 p.m. Parent pick-up, students dismissed from classrooms

3:25 p.m. Kindergarten and first grade leave the building

3:27 p.m. Grades 2-3-4 leave the building;

Page 26: Replace Discipline policies with the following new definitions and consequences.

Alcohol:  Student is in possession of or is using alcohol.

Disrespect:  Student engages in refusal to follow directions, talks back and/or delivers socially rude interactions.

Disruption:  Student engages in behavior causing an interruption in a class or activity. Disruption includes sustained loud talk, yelling or screaming; noise with materials; horseplay or roughhousing; and/or sustained out-of-seat behavior.

Forgery/Theft: Student is in possession of, has distributed, or is responsible for removing someone else’s property, or has signed a person’s name without that person’s permission.

Harassment/Bullying:  Student delivers disrespectful messages (verbal or gestural) to another person that includes threats and intimidation, obscene gestures, pictures, or written notes.

Inappropriate Language:  Student delivers verbal messages that include swearing, name-calling or use of words in an inappropriate way.

Lying:  Student delivers message that is untrue and/or deliberately violates rules.

Physical Aggression:  Student engages in actions involving serious physical contact where injury may occur (e.g., hitting, punching, hitting with an object, kicking, hair pulling, scratching, etc.).

Fighting:  Two students participate in hitting, pushing, or shoving, with the intent to harm each other.

Possession/Use of Tobacco:  Student is in possession of or is using tobacco.

Possession/Use of Weapons:  Student is in possession of knives or guns (real or look alike), or other objects readily capable of causing bodily harm.

Property Damage:  Student participates in an activity that results in destruction or disfigurement of property.

Technology Violation:  Student engages in inappropriate (as defined by school) use of cell phone, pager, music/video players, camera, and/or computer.

Consequences/Actions:  Any of the above may have the following consequences: 1) Incident Report, 2) Student Contract, 3) Behavior Plan, 3) Loss of Privileges or Restitution, 4) In-School Suspension, 5) Out of School Suspension, 6) Swats, if permission given.

Middle school revisions were the following:

All Discipline Referral Conse­quences.  It is purposed that we make a shift from a “zero tolerance” and “punitive” system to how we handle issues that arise in the class­room to a focus on teaching and learning appropriate social skills and behavior management techniques.   There are several components to this process that will be detailed at a later time.

The following is proposed for all discipline incidents:  we would still include the definitions in our current handbook, like the example:  Disruptive Behavior:  Students must not disturb the school-learning environment in any way that will hinder the educational process of other students. 

We would replace “Action to be Taken” with a menu of options with selection based on individual needs of the student, and the severity of the infraction. The menu list would include (they are listed in order from those being the least restrictive to the most severe):

1) Incident Report, 2) Student Contract, 3) Comprehensive Behavior Improvement Plan which may include any of the following: Restitution, Apology, Behavior Think Sheet, Mediation essay on how to behave, Viewing a SW-PBS Video and completing a reflection, Conference with parent/guardian and administrator, Make up of any missing work. 4) ISS – ISS is not necessarily a “time bound” consequence.  Students assigned ISS will go to the ISS room to complete learning tasks outlined in the Comprehensive Behavior Improvement Plan.  The student would return to the classroom when all the requirements of the Comprehensive Improvement Plan are met.  The goal is to have the child learn appropriate skills to successfully return to class and to be under “instructional control”, and to successfully integrate them back to the classroom.  5) OSS – Students could have OSS for 1-180 days as determined by school administration.  Students would be integrated back into the school upon completion of the suspension, as well as completing all steps outlined in the Comprehensive Behavior Improvement Plan.  Prior to returning to school, the student would have to have a “re-entrance interview” with the administrator.

6) Law enforcement officials to be contacted: This consequence could be administered as a result of a Safe Schools violation (assault, violent act, alcohol/drug abuse, threatening behavior, vandalism, bullying, fighting, harassment, weapons/ contraband;

7) Referral to counseling or outside agency.

Add: Office Referrals – Out of Instructional Control

Determining whether a referral is appropriate will be based on the frequency, intensity, or severity of the student’s behavior.  There are three general patterns of student behavior that typically result in an office referral.  1) Student is engaged in a serious behavior that violates Safe School laws.  These offenses could be chargeable offenses.  These students would be sent to the office immediately.  2)  Student is engaged in escalated behavior in response to interaction with an adult.  These students would be sent to the office after correction and/or teaching has been attempted but behavior escalates. Staff has tried to help the student de-escalate behavior by remaining calm, using praise, behavioral descriptions, empathy, rationales, etc.  Warning is provided followed by a pause and referral if behavior continues.

3) Student engages in repetitive or chronic minor misbehavior and is resistant to staff interventions. A warning is provided to the student prior to referral.  The staff member contacts the child’s parents and the building administrator before warning and referring the student to determine the appropriateness of the action.

Final acceptance of the proposed changes to the handbooks for 2012-13 will be determined at a later date.

The school salary committee, which is served by Thelma Clayton, Lisa Johnson, Kim Davis, Melanie Gray, Nathan Houk, Airin Roberts, Larry Silvey and Teresa Nash, provided an update on committee recommendations and incentives for the ensuing year. Proposed ideas for the board to consider were noted as:

• continue with the customary vertical and horizontal movement on the salary scale to recognize those teachers who have more experience and extra education; and cover the insurance cost increase to prevent a decrease in pay.

• allow the two personal days stipulated in the present policy to be used for personal business or illness.  This flexibility will provide benefits to staff without added cost.

• increase the reimbursement for un­used sick days by $10 to encour­age fewer absences. This increase bridges the gap between the cost of a substitute teacher and the amount of the reimbursement.

• pay the 10% increase in health insurance for experienced staff (to prevent decrease in salary).

• to compensate teachers who use their personal conference time to fill-in for teachers who must leave before the end of the day. An added compensation of $20 per hour would encourage more to volunteer.

• re-evaluate extra duty pay more regularly to assure that the pay reflects the activity and commitment level associated with the extra-curricular activity.

The committee also noted the recent loss of the career ladder program has significantly reduced the salary of teachers.  For example, a veteran teacher with a masters degree, on an extended contract and on the third step of the ladder, has endured a $6,000 – $7,000  reduction in salary.  The committee stated that as the staff continues to absorb increases in premiums and upsurges in the cost of living, the overall impact on salaries is a genuine cut in pay.

Board members voted to uphold state & federal assurance statements and grant management for 2012-13.

The guidance and counseling program was approved as presented by Dr. Nancy Lawler.

Both votes were 5-0.

The summer school application was also approved 5-0.

Bills totaling nearly $227,000 were approved for payment.

Board members participating in open session were Ron Wallace, Johnny Burkdoll, Randy Spurlock, Pat Henry and Marsha Aborn. Larry Silvey attended executive session.

The next board meeting is slated for Thursday, May 17, 6:30 p.m., in the board of education room.