The Shippensburg Area School board discussed four items of business at its Monday work session: bus discipline policy, dress code policy, old kitchen equipment and an update to their Flagship Proud projects, which include a renovated high school entrance and auditorium as well as a new multi-purpose stadium to be built on school grounds.
President Dr. David Lovett, Director Geno Torri and Director Tracy Montoro were absent.
The board discussed discipline on buses in regards to two policies,
the transportation policy and the student conduct policy that addresses student behavior. The board is looking to combine the two policies to give administrators more flexibility in terms of specific punishments, outlined in the student handbook.
Superintendent Dr. Jerry Wilson recommended they be combined and revised into a newly proposed policy.
“This is a substantial change,” Wilson said. “We felt it would be important to talk through in a work session.”
He asked administrators to look at the current policy, and noted the policy was brought to his attention as being “very prescriptive.”
Administrators recommended bus discipline become based more on administrative guidelines that are established in the student handbook, rather than through school board policy.
Wilson said the school board policy is “very specific on student behavior on buses and what should happen” and is where the major difference in this proposed policy will stand.
Director Dr. Nathan Goates noticed how “disrespect” is defined as a major and minor offense in the newly proposed policy.
Director of Transportation Michael Montedoro was present and said administrators wrestled with attempting to define “disrespect” in the policy.
Montedoro also confirmed Vice President Susan Spicka's belief that any bus offense is written up and relayed to the parent.
“There aren't a lot of changes to what we already to do,” Montedoro said. “I would say the biggest difference is it isn't as prescribed.”
He cited an example of a student putting a bus window down as a second offense. Under the old policy, the student would receive a two- to three-day suspension from the bus. In the proposed policy, a referral would be submitted to the administration, which can then review the offense and decide the proper consequence based on the student handbook.
Goates asked if this policy was being discussed as part of a periodic review or due to particular cases that have arisen.
Wilson said it was a result of both, adding there were “numerous” referrals that remained unacted upon and others in various stages of incompletion.
“I looked at the policy, and it just appeared to me to be over the edge,” Wilson said. “In other words, we were being prescriptive in this policy language in my opinion, and we were disciplining students harshly... but if the policies are too punitive and can’t be enacted, then you’re not following your policy, so that to me was problematic, so we wanted to put in place some language that would be more descriptive of what, in my opinion, would be more appropriate disciplinary actions would be as well as looking at how is it generally done in other places.”
Director Erica Burg asked for an example of how a student might be handled with the revised policy versus the old policy. Wilson quoted the original example of opening windows as a second offense and the suspension of two to three days as being “rather extreme.” Instead, the administrator is not held to the two- or three-day bus suspension and could enact a different discipline. Montedoro said administrators feel this allows them to use their student handbook with their own administrative procedures and allows for “more flexibility.”
Director Dr. Michael Lyman asked about rules posted on the bus, and Montedoro said schools will give the bus driver three or four basic rules, like respect the driver and keep hands/feet to yourself, but also give the ability and flexibility to enact their own rules.
“The hope is that administrators will be able to follow policy, and then we will have fewer students getting kicked off the bus because when we have kids getting kicked off the bus, a lot of times it makes it tough for students to get to school, and then they end up missing school,” Spicka said. “The hope is that this will have positive impact on academics because students will be less likely to be off the bus and missing school.”
Montedoro confirmed that the bus suspensions are an issue and administrators recognized that students were not coming to school as a result.
Business Manager Cristy Lentz led a discussion on two pieces of cafeteria equipment that had possibly extended their lifespan.
The James Burd Elementary School steamer is currently not in operation after the generator stopped working.
The steamer was purchased in 1987 at a price of $7,917. According to the fixed assets in record keeping, the steamer is only good for 15 years. When talking about a vendor who deals with this equipment, he said the average lifespan of a steamer in a school setting would be 20 to 25 years because they are not used year round. If the generator were to be replaced, that may only last five to 12 years based on water condition.
She presented two options: repair the generator, or replace the entire steamer. A replacement steamer would be approximately $23,000 versus a repaired generator being $9,000. She also said repairing the generator could result in facing more breakdowns and how replacement parts may no longer be available.
“We face the challenge if we do go the repair route that we could continue to face these breakdowns and they could possibly be ruined,” Lentz said.
Wilson said this would be funded from the Fund Balance because this was not previously budgeted.
Lyman asked what the steamer is used for, and Lentz said corn and other food items are prepared in it. However, due to the malfunction, the staff found other ways to cook the corn, which was taking longer and posing an inconvenience.
Goates expressed his support for the new steamer.
Lentz also said a walk-in refrigerator/cooler at James Burd Elementary that was purchased in 1985 for roughly $14,000 has a fixed asset life of 15 years.
“We have repaired this piece of equipment so many times that we are being told that it cannot be repaired any longer,” Lentz said. “There is condensation forming in both units. It's causing some hazards. So this is in dire need of replacement since we can no longer make any additional repairs.”
The district is applying for a grant that will cover the cost, but it is one they do not usually receive because selection is based on the percentage of students who receive free/reduced lunches.
Director Charlie Suders asked what they are using now, and Lentz said they are using the walk-in refrigerator/cooler, but there are puddles that constantly need to be mopped up. Lentz did not have a quote for a new refrigerator at the meeting.
She said a lot of the equipment at James Burd and Nancy Grayson Elementary date back to the 1980s because the schools underwent major renovations back then.
“I spoke to Dr. Wilson, and I planned to work with our food service director, as well as our maintenance director, to get this on the rotation schedule of capital maintenance needs,” she said in closing.
Wilson also addressed one component of the dress code that states how the length of shorts and skirts need to extend beyond the fingertips when the arms are extended downward while in an upward position.
This is current student handbook language, not board policy language, so a board resolution would have to be approved.
He noted a challenge because of physiological differences that cause different outcomes with students.
He added it was brought to his attention that sports uniforms do not fit the dress code policy, like volleyball, field hockey, cheerleader and cross country.
A third issue with the handbook guideline was the challenge for women to meet the standards.
“This is not a huge problem that I bring to your attention, but it is a problem, and if the board would be willing to go down this road, then we can make an improvement, so certain kids won't be singled out,” Wilson said. “I think this other policy gives us the grounds to talk to those students who are possibly affected by it.”
The proposed language would be “shorts and skirts must be modest in length and completely cover personal, private body parts.”
Lyman suggested how “shorts and skirts” could be changed to “clothing,” so girls are not targeted.
Spicka said the proposed language eliminates the fingertip length and does not address the covering of undergarments.
Lyman said the policy adds a little more flexibility.
Goates asked whether this became an issue because of someone noting an inconsistency, or students complaining, and Wilson said it was a combination.
Flagship Proud update
Wilson also gave an update on the progress of the Flagship Proud projects.
An entry committee has been put together, and the auditorium committee has a meeting this week with the hope of identifying some more leadership. The athletic committee is already formed through the Greyhound Foundation.
One or two people will be pulled from these committees to form a “coordinating council,” Wilson said.
Wilson also met with the foundation and said the entrance project committee is planning a brick fundraiser where donors can purchase a brick for $100 with an engraved name or message to be added to the entrance.
A web page has been designed; alumni research has been done to identify different classes, and the athletic committee has also discussed naming rights.
Two groups of Shippensburg University students will also assist. One group will work the athletic committee and the other will work with the entry and auditorium committee.
The request for proposals (RFPs) have been set out, and the hope is to have some bids for the next meeting on Oct. 22.