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Handbooks took center stage for Olton school trustees last week as the board considered three handbooks and the two codes of conduct during their regular monthly meeting on Thursday, June 18.
But few votes were taken as trustees opted for no action during this meeting on two of the three handbooks and one of the two codes of conduct.
First up was the 2020-2021 Student Handbook, which had been significantly overhauled to make it uniform with district policy. It wasn’t that major changes had been made, but that existing language had been moved around to be uniform with current policy. Yet, there were some deletions and additions color coded by Superintendent Kevin McCasland so that trustees would be aware of them.
The superintendent fielded questions and trustees raised concerns during the lengthy discussion. However, the board wasn’t ready to approve the handbook. Trustees wanted to spend more time going over the document and reviewing changes before signing off on it.
And that’s what McCasland had anticipated, which is why he had brought all of the handbooks and codes of conduct to the board a month earlier than usual. He wanted trustees to have plenty of time to explore the materials and propose changes, additions and deletions.
Among questions raised were what would constitute an unexcused absence if the COVID-19 pandemic keeps a student away, as well as whether students should continue to be allowed to have cell phones with them throughout the school day. Baskets in classrooms for the collection of phones during instructional time was one option put forth.
The Student Code of Conduct was next on the agenda. One issue in the code that merited discussion was whether a new provision allows a student with a valid prescription for low-THC cannabis could have it on his person. The superintendent noted that all prescription drugs must be turned in to the nurse. State law now allows prescriptions for low-THC cannabis, but students are not allowed to have it with them.
Like the student handbook, there were other additions and deletions that needed more study before being approved.
The 2020-2021 Cheer Handbook might have be approved but for questions about whether new wording would create up to a two-year penalty period for a student dismissed for a cheer squad. Different interpretations prompted trustees to refine that area before making a final decision.
But the 2020-2021 Band Handbook did win approval on a 7-0 vote. trustees found few changes and nothing to warrant additional discussion. So Vice President Ruben Luera moved to approve the handbook. Jay Gorman seconded his motion.
The Athletic Code of Conduct also won approval on 7-0 vote. There were no significant changes to be considered, so Alicia Sanches moved for approval, and Tullie Struve seconded her motion.
Trustees approved a $100,566 expenditure to continue Olton Independent School District’s contract with Region 17 Educational Service Center. Michael Ramage moved to approve the expenditure, and Sanchez offered the second. The issued passed on a 7-0 vote.
The district years-long e-Rate appeal came to a close with approval of a budget amendment to cover it. Trustees had signed off on the agreement at a previous meeting, but the budget amendment completed the transaction. Struve moved to approve the amendment, and Secretary Jesus “Chuy” DeLaCruz seconded the motion, which passed on a 7-0 vote.
The board agreed on a 7-0 vote to contract with Allied Compliance for the district’s DOT drug and alcohol testing for students and employees. Allied Compliance has been handling employee testing for OISD for sometime. The district asked the company to take over student testing midway through the last school year after the company that had been doing student testing ceased to exist. DeLaCruz moved to approve the use of Allied Compliance, and Ramage seconded the motion.
Following the board’s action item, trustees conducted a budget workshop session, offering direction for McCasland as he prepares the budget. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is lots of uncertainty about funding issues as the district works toward formulating the 2020-2021 budget.
Informational items discussed during the meeting included:
•the School Health Advisory Council Yearly Report;
•a discussion of the district’s use of drug dog services;
•a review of financial reports
•a review of enrollment reports
•a report on resignations and reassignments;
•the disclosure of a Missed Instructional Days Waiver;
•the disclosure of an Instructional Materials Inventory Waiver;
•the disclosure of district completion and certification of a cybersecurity training program;
•a discussion of flooring at Olton Junior High School and Olton High School; and,
•setting the next regular meeting for 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 16.
Following a closed session in which numerous teacher and staff employment issues were discussed, trustees reconvened in open session and voted 6-0-1 to authorizing McCasland to have final hiring authority through July 16. Sanchez moved to authorize the superintendent to have the hiring authority and Ramage second her motion. They were joined by Luera, DeLaCruz, Struve and Gorman. Board President Connie Maxwell abstained, noting she feels like hiring is a board responsibility as specified in policy.
Trustees opened the meeting by rewriting a board agreement established two years ago before Gorman came on the board. Words to be used in the agreemnt included: honesty, transparency, trust, intentional, respect, colaboration and intergity.
Board members “anted in” by signing the agreement.