Plans for remainder of school year discussed; policies clarified
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By Scott Bidroski
The Gordon-Rushville School Board met for their regular monthly meeting on Monday, February 13 beginning at 5:30 p.m.
The meeting was opened and everyone in attendance stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
No members were excused as absent. Members who were present included Carrie Child, Bobbi Archibald, Zach Kearns, Candie Johnson, Cassie Craven, and Seth Tausan.
The meeting agenda was approved and the Public Forum was opened.
Joe Headrick spoke in the forum first.
Headrick stated that President Reagan wanted to get rid of the Federal Department of Education. According to him, three days ago, a new bill in the United States Congress to abolish the Department of Education. He fears that the teacher’s unions have those people in their grip.
Headrick then presented articles about several subjects he feels the Board should be aware of. It was also noted that he is not sure if these are all true and he hopes they are not.
Eric Calkins was the next speaker in the Forum.
Calkins stated that he is here tonight because he is worried about our schools.
His daughter went from a straight A student all the way from Kindergarten to Eighth grade and then walked into this building. She is now struggling in a Algebra class and is now almost failing this class.
He added that the teacher sends home 10 page homework assignments and does not help them during class time.
The second topic he wanted to discuss was the how many snow days we are taking.
Calkins stated he his lived here his whole life and in this country, it snows.
He feels that we should have distance learning options on those snow days so we are not going to school until June.
The Board then pivoted to Building Reports next.
Mr. Keith Mills from the Rushville Elementary was first.
Mr. Mills began his Report by thanking Joel Burbach for his hard work keeping the sidewalk clean during all the recent snow.
He also thanked Mr. Livingston and all the constituents who help make the decision on making the right call during these storms on whether or not to have school.
Mr. Mills added that Mr. Livingston is putting the safety of the students and staff first, and he appreciates that very much.
Events that were celebrated recently were the National School Counseling Week and the Preschool Program on February 6.
Mrs. Robin Johnson then gave her report for Gordon Elementary.
She thanked the GRHS Student Council for their cooperation on the recent Food Drive. It was a great success for all parties involved.
Also, a thank you to the custodians at GES was given for their continued hard work on keeping sidewalks clean from snow and ice.
Johnson noted that a recent hot chocolate fundraiser by the GES Student Council raised $155. The Student Council is also working on a coloring contest. The finished products will be delivered to Countryside Care.
Dr. Dennis Dolezal delivered his report for Gordon-Rushville Middle School next.
Dr. Dolezal thanked his custodial staff for their continued hard work on keeping everything safe for students on the sidewalks around the school.
He thanked the community members for coming in and judging the door decorating contest.
The GRMS Speech team is putting plans together to host their first ever Speech Meet at the school. He noted that sixth graders can compete in Speech, unlike many other events at GRMS.
Plans are also in place for a bit of cooperative event, with the Gordon-Rushville High School Future Farmers of America organization coming to the school to introduce the students to the programs that FFA can offer.
Ms. Tessa Hurlburt, GRHS Student Council President, then gave her report to the Board.
Ms. Hurlburt let the Board know that the C.A.R.E. cupcakes came in that day. The Student Council sells them around the building and sold over 250 cupcakes to support the C.A.R.E. organization.
She added in that the basketball teams are playing at home this coming week and encouraged everyone to get out and support them.
Mr. Nathan Livingston then delivered a report for Mr. Casey Slama, the GRHS Activities Director.
A recap of the GRHS Wrestling, Boys Basketball, Girls Basketball, and Cheerleading seasons were all on the report.
He then pivoted to his report at the Principal of GRHS.
Mr. Livingston stated that the juniors are preparing for taking the ACT this upcoming spring.
He then stated that he encourages all parents to contact him directly if they feel their student is having issues in a certain class or in general. A phone call or an email, whichever they prefer, will be answered by him and he will work with parents and students to resolve issues.
Board member Cassie Craven asked Mr. Livingston about tutoring options to help students who may be struggling.
As far as procedure when it comes to students struggling, a mandatory 9th period is required for students who are failing a class.
If they are not failing, but struggling, tutoring is an option for those students either peer-to-peer or teacher-to-student as well. Parents are encouraged to contact Mr. Livingston if this is needed.
And filling his third role in the meeting, Mr. Livingston moved on to the Superintendent’s Report.
Some solutions were provided as far as the issues with the ADA compliance with the cafeteria. A meeting with the Facilities Committee will be needed to go over the details of the report.
The report from the Office of Civil Rights review was given to the school. The Board received a copy of the report as well.
Mr. Livingston noted some issues that were noted like toilet paper rolls are not the right height and parking signs are not the right height. He noted those are easy fixes but the cafeteria access would be the biggest item to tackle on the report.
Mr. Livingston then discussed possible extra days being added due to the weather the area has been experiencing, if needed.
He added he is not sure where the date June 1 came in but as of right now, the District is not adding any additional days at this time.
The only place there could be a pinch in the future is with the seniors at GRHS because they are done earlier than any other students in the District.
An extra two minutes has been added to every period at GRHS to help alleviate any issues and more options are available if inclement weather continues to be an issue.
As far as making the call on snow days, Mr. Livingston stated that his process is always open to suggestions. But he would rather stay on the safe side and not have to deal with an accident or fatality of a student or staff member due to the roads.
The Consent Agenda was presented and approved by the Board. Included in the agenda was the payment of the General Fund Bills in the amount of $760,484.02 among other items.
Discussion items were then up in the meeting.
The first discussion item was a presentation on the communication practices used by administrators to communicate with staff, students, and parents.
Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Mills, Dr. Dolezal, and Mr. Livingston all gave detailed lists of the ways they communicate with everyone about school activities.
Some methods listed included Class DoJo, Remind, Facebook, text message, phone calls, emails, and the school’s website. It was noted the website carries a multitude of information covering a large array of categories that patrons can utilize and peruse at their convenience.
The next discussion item was a review of policies.
Seth Tausan said that several people have come up to him saying that vaping and cell phone use is concerning.
Mr. Livingston stated that there seems to be an uptick in use at the High School. He added that devices have evolved over the past few years and are hard to find.
Educational resources for parents to help stop the use at home, along with education delivered at school about the negative consequences, might be the best way to go.
A course from Stanford University on the negative effects of vaping is also something Mr. Livingston is looking into. The course could be assigned to a student who is caught vaping. He is looking into the cost and availability of this course.
Vape detectors are also an option and something the school is going to try out to help deter it as well.
Mrs. Craven then asked Mr. Livingston about the involvement of law enforcement on matter like this and others.
Mr. Livingston responded that he can call law enforcement on any issues that violate the law but he does not always call if it just nicotine. But if it is THC, he does call law enforcement.
Mr. Tausan then asked about drug dogs being an option to go through the school.
Mr. Livingston responded that he was not aware of a drug dog that would hit on vape, only THC. Also, in past years, a drug dog has been brought through the school but one has not been brought in this year.
Mrs. Craven asked about restroom use and if teachers are present in the restroom.
Mr. Livingston stated that they do not want to get too restrictive on using the restroom, that can cause issues.
Students are required to get their planner signed by a teacher each time they use the restroom to monitor how many trips are made each day to help deter unnecessary restroom usage.
Mr. Tausan then stated that the people who have talked to him about vaping is in regards to the locker rooms. He asked if those are locked or monitored.
Mr. Livingston said the doors in the locker room are so old and warped, they do not lock.
They have ordered new doors but finding the supply and someone to install them has been an issue. Maintenance Director Chad Allison has stated that he will do his best to install them when they arrive.
Mr. Livingston stated the plan when the doors come in is to have Mr. Gatlin Mack, the Physical Education instructor, lock the doors once everyone is dressed and reduce access when they are in the weight room.
Until the new doors arrive, Mr. Livingston has told students that the locker rooms are not open for use by everyone and there will be consequences if a student uses the locker room without correct permissions.
He also added that there is not a revolving door of vaping going on and it’s not out of control. But he recognizes it is a concern and is constantly working on finding solutions to solve the problem.
Mr. Livingston was then asked about the cell phone policy.
He went through when students can have their phone during the day and the consequences for violating the cell phone rules.
Mrs. Craven asked Mr. Livingston about the Student Discipline policy and how he handles situations and uses discretion. She had concerns about the usage of the words “shall” and “may” in the policy.
She believes it makes it difficult for administrators to administer without the risk of liability because then you are creating situations which parents can argue are desparit results and it matters who you are and how you are being treated.
She noted one that concerns is in regards to weapons and/or firearms in which the policy reads “students may be disciplined.” She would like to know why that is not a shall?
Mr. Livingston responded that circumstances dictate different reactions even when it comes to weapons. What if the student had a pocket knife in their pocket after cutting bale wrap that morning doing chores. That student does not deserve a mandatory suspension.
He would like the leeway on making a reasonable decision on situations because circumstances can differ in each situation.
The Board then made the quick decision to move the Activities account from Bank of the West to First National Bank of Gordon.
The Board then made the decision to go into Executive Session to discuss personnel at 7:07 p.m.
The Board returned from Executive Session at 7:58 p.m.
With no further actions on the agenda, the Board adjourned the meeting at 7:59 p.m.
The next regular Board meeting is set for Monday, March 13 at 5:30 p.m.