School board discusses tardiness, use of gaming money, door security

All three topics continued to June

The Greene County school administration made good on its promise to take to the full board concerns raised at the new public forums. At the inaugural forum in April, parents raised concerns about the attendance policy as it relates to student athletes. The topic was on the board’s agenda in May. After nearly 30 minutes of discussion the board made no decisions but put it on the agenda again for June 15 meeting.

Teaching students employability skills, including being prompt, is an overarching goal of the school, according to the discussion.

The attendance policy was amended a two years ago. Prior to that, students could be absent from school in the morning and still participate in extra-curricular activities – practices or games – in the afternoon.

The policy was changed so that students have to be at school the entire day to participate, and it includes tardiness for class. A student who is 30 seconds late is considered not to have been at school the entire day and is ineligible for that day.

According to activities director Dean Lansman, no other school in the Heart of Iowa Activities Conference makes athletes miss practice for being tardy to class.

Parents in April said students shouldn’t have to miss practice and that the policy is not consistently enforced.

School board member Mark Peters, who was not at the April forum, was adamant in supporting the current policy as a learning tool. “We’re not here to prepare athletes for the next level. We’re here to prepare students for the next level,” he said. Peters, a veterinarian, added that he has fired employees for tardiness.

According to superintendent Tim Christensen, attendance and timeliness are both employability skills, and there should be “a concerted effort” to teach them.

Golf coach Dave Destival was at the meeting. He reported sending golfers away from practice because they were late for class, and that he thinks students have learned from it.

AD Lansman also coaches football and track. He said he has had only one “repeat offender,” and that he benched him for half a game. “For the most part, students are pretty good about being on time,” he said. His own daughter missed running in a track meet because of a tardy the day of the meet, he added.

Not all teachers are consistent in reporting tardiness, and not all coaches are consistent in checking attendance reports. “If you’re tardy the day of a game, you miss the game if you’re caught,” he said.

Board members John McConnell and Mike Dennhardt both questioned using detention as a punishment for tardiness. “It you make them stay after school and they’re late for practice, then there are ramifications of that,” McConnell said.

Administrators are considering using detention Wednesday afternoons, when students are dismissed early for teacher professional development, Christensen said. “When they see their friends leaving school at 1:30, they’re not going to be very happy about having to stay,” he said.

The board agreed to discuss the policy again next month. Board member Sam Harding finished the conversation saying, “Employability is huge.”

Use of Grow Greene County funds: The board discussed re-directing use of $68,000 coming from Grow Greene County. The board previously earmarked the money for the future construction of a new bus garage, but with the purchase of the former armory moving forward  (physical plant and equipment levy funds will cover that), the board can consider other uses.

“Our goal should be to spend as much as possible on kids,” Christensen said.

Curriculum director Karen Sandberg said new science standards being phased in by the state will require additional equipment. She is compiling an inventory and a list of what is needed district-wide. Updating security systems and building a new softball/baseball complex were also named as possibilities.

“Learning equipment is a priority. Science is kind of a big deal,” board member David Ohrt said.

School business manager Brenda Muir, a member of Grow Greene County, said the school may receive up to twice that amount next year.

Administrators will begin compiling a “dream list” for the board’s future consideration.

Electronic door security: The board considered quotes gathered by technology director Tim Buenz for cameras and buzzers at school entrances. “I hate that society is getting this way, but at some point we have to update what we have,” Christensen said.

The minimum cost Buenz proposed was $14,000. Concerns about staffing, policy enforcement, and benefit were raised.

“I’d rather not spend the $14,000 and take criticism for not having better security than spend the money and not use it,” Harding said.

Elementary principal Scott Johnson said, “I don’t know if we’re at a point we need people to buzz in. We’re always told that if a person wants to get into a building, they’ll find a way. The only deterrent would be a police officer with a 9mm at the door,” he said.

Buenz was not at the meeting. The board tabled the decision until June.

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