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SF Board Wants Wireless; Dress Code Discussed

A recap of Monday night's board meeting

The Spring-Ford Area School District board of education met for a work session meeting on Monday night.

Aside from recognizing outstanding students in the district and a recently-named teacher of the year, the board discussed financial matters pertaining to curriculum and technology, and went over other board reports. Board member Clara Gudolonis was absent from the meeting.

Below is a categorical recap of the reports:

Curriculum and Technology

Board member Julie Mullin reported the curriculum and technology committee met on March 14, where new Director of Curriculum and Instruction Keith Floyd was introduced on his second day of work.

Mullin said the committee started off with technology pieces.

"Thank God for [Director of Technology] Steve Reynolds," Mullin said. "He did a fantastic job in proposing a 10-year budget plan, which this board has been asking for for a while. We need to prepare and make sure we’re up to date on technology."

Mullin said Reynolds' plan is based on the creation of the technology reserve fund. Administration is recommending approval to add wireless access to the senior , the , the , the and . Funding would be paid from the 2011-12 technology budget and not exceed $300,000.

Some concern was brought up by board members as to why only those schools would be receiving the wireless connectivity technology. Reynolds responded that the other schools are not eligible for the technology refresh yet, and it would be wise to wait.

Board member Bernard Pettit revealed that it would cost the district another $200,000 to do the rest of the schools, and asked why the district couldn't spend the money and get it done now. The rest of the board agreed, even suggesting money be taken from the capital improvements fund.

Board President Tom DiBello suggested he speak with the finance committee and report back to see if it is feasible. Mullin requested the motion on next week's agenda be changed if that's the case and it was left at that.

The committee also discussed the phone system. Mullin said Reynolds proposed that the district adopt a plan to upgrade the existing system in the 2014-15 budget year based on multiple maintenance vendors.

The computer refresh at the seventh grade center, the 5-6 center and Evans was studied by Reynolds, as well, and based on feedback from the staff at those schools, Reynolds said the existing computers in the classrooms are used very little. Reynolds reported the mobile computers and/or tablets are much better suited for the classroom. Therefore, the refresh would not be necessary. Each building did request mounted projectors and many, if not all, requested SmartBoards in the classrooms.

As for curriculum, the committee is in the process of adding an Advanced Placement European History class. The cost of those text books are not to exceed $5,300.

Mullin said the committee discussed the use of technology in the classroom, which Floyd will be working on in the near future. Parents also brought to the committee's attention the idea of granting foreign language eligibility to fifth and sixth graders if their PSSA scores were good enough. Mullin said that discussion will continue.

Policy

The policy committee met on March 12, and Mullin reported the committee had another good meeting thanks to Assistant Superintendent Allyn Roche for bringing in policies that had been overlooked or desperate needed updating.

The following is a list of policies that were looked at:

  • 137 – home education – created (did not have one before) – presented for first reading
  • 116 – tutorial and instruction – language changes - presented for first reading
  • 221 – dress and grooming – "Administration was there at the meeting, which was quite useful," Mullin said. "The big push was to make it more enforceable. I believe we have done that."
  • 707 – facilities – going back to committee
  • Nepotism policies of district – It was asked that the policies of Spring-Ford and surrounding districts were to be collected to be put in a packet for the board to analyze at the board level. It was posted for review

The dress code policy restricts "excessively baggy pants or clothing that can conceal items and/or pose safety hazard" and undergarments are not to be exposed in any way. "Low cut or exposing" tops, bare midriffs and bare backs are not permitted. Tank tops and muscle shirts are not permitted (including spaghetti strap less than one-half inch, halter or mesh tops, see-through blouses or shirts, tube tops, crop tops or half shirts).

Coats, jackets or garments designed for protection from outside weather are also not to be worn in school. Dresses, skirts and shorts are also to be worn at "appropriate length" and in good taste.

Clothing, jewelry and back packs can also not have "sexually suggestive writing/pictures, advocate violence, advertise or promote the use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs, have double meaning wording or obscene language." Tattoos must also be covered if it has the aforementioned tones. Headwear and sunglasses are also not permitted.

The policy says a first offense is enforced by the building administrator and the student will be retained in the office until a parent brings a proper change of clothing. The second offense has the same repercussions, but a detention may also be issued. Finally, the third offense will have the same repercussions as the second offense, and the student can receive demerits which could result in further discipline. The parent or guardian would be notified in writing.

Board Vice President Joe Ciresi opened up a discussion on the nepotism policy, saying he read that the Springfield School District had a strict policy against hiring family members of board, staff and administration members, and that he would like to see that done in this district.

"I think they got it right," said Ciresi. "Their policy was adopted in 1999, which was a long time ago. My recommendation would be for policy to go back and look at this policy itself and see if we can draw something up near to this."

Ciresi made sure to note that any existing employees with these types of relationships would be grandfathered in.

Board member David Shafer highly opposed to Ciresi's comments.

"I respectfully disagree," said Shafer. "You're insinuating by serving on the board that you feel we’re going to get our friends or relatives jobs. That’s not what’s occurring here, nor am I aware of it ever occurring. If we’re going to make changes, we need a problem worth fixing and I’m not sure we have one."

Shafer went on to say he thinks the philosophy the district has and has deployed is that it is going to seek the greatest candidate in every position, regardless of a relationship existing by virtue of family or not.

"By implementing a policy that limits that, we’re narrowing the philosophy of seeking the best candidate for the position," Shafer said. "On a high level, I don’t know if we have a problem that needs fixing in terms of a policy change. I’d like to know if it if so, because I’m not aware of it."

Pettit also agreed with Shafer, but did not oppose exploring the option. Mullin clarified that the policy was originally discussed because a community member brought it to Ciresi's attention.

Ciresi said he was not saying the board had a problem, but with the job market the way it is today, he thought the system may be a little unfair. Board member Mark Dehnert disagreed.

"This board doesn’t hire people, it just approves hires," he said. "We don’t interview or select candidates. Speaking from personal experience, my daughter substitutes in the district. She has a degree from Penn State. She's been substituting here for the past three years. If I had any influence of her being hired, she would have a full-time job here. No one’s asked me about my daughter. Not once."

Mullin said the issue would be sent back to policy committee next month.

A Wonderful Donation

Administration acknowledged the acceptance of a donation of $23,436 by the Oaks Elementary Parent Teacher Association for the purchase of equipment and the installation of nine SmartBoards and projectors in the second and third grade classrooms at Oaks Elementary School.

Other Business

The following pieces of information were also either discussed, or on the board's agenda to be approved next week:

  • There is new fencing at the tennis courts at the ninth grade center; however, lighting has been disconnected and will not be replaced. The courts are still open to the public when school is not in session.
  • Administration is recommending approval of the , which is held at and open to all elementary students. Approximately 40 teachers will instruct the courses and their reimbursement will be at the contract-established rate of $30 per hour. A stipend of $5,000 is to be paid to Karen Davis, who coordinates the program. There will be no cost to the district, as all expenses will be covered by student tuition fees.
  • Graduation day is set for June 7 at Coach McNelly Stadium. The rain date is on June 8. The last day of school is also on June 8.

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