The North County school board discussed vaping challenges and door locks, and approved the district’s fiscal year 2020-21 audit during its meeting in the administrative building Monday night.
A parent who had attended the October meeting to ask about how the school’s vaping policy is enforced revisited his concerns during the public comments section of the meeting’s agenda. His name is undisclosed, since his son is a minor.
“I wanted to come tonight to get some updates on the vaping issue to see if we made any headway, if we made any changes. On my end, I'm assuming no, because my son is currently sitting at home on a three-day suspension, because another kid brought a vape to school,” he said.
He said he talked to a variety of officials connected with the middle school when he picked his son up. “I asked what we're going to do, because my kid’s not bringing a vape to school, yet now he's suspended because he has a vape while at school. So again, the issue is at the school.”
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Superintendent Katie Bockman assured him the district has made numerous announcements on the issue, and has also partnered with St. Francois County Community Partnership to send out vaping awareness postcards to parents.
The parent said he had only seen one announcement, which was made during DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) week.
“And it was (about) the risk and dangers of vaping. It wasn't admitting that there's an issue in the school, which there is an issue in the school,” he said.
“There's an issue everywhere, every school,” acknowledged Board President Randy Hubbard. “I asked last time you were here: Do you have any suggestions? We followed up on the suggestions (from last month). Do you have any other suggestions?”
The parent said he had called Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve school districts, and found out that one uses in-person bathroom monitors to prevent vaping, and the other uses vape detectors.
Vape detectors are intended to accurately monitor the quality of air to detect vaping chemicals when present in school bathrooms, akin to a smoke alarm. An alert can go off, and assigned staff can respond to the alert, in some models.
Bockman said they’re looking into pricing at this time, and that the school resource officers (SROs) have been researching solutions like vape monitors. She indicated she and others are inclined to believe they might be the best deterrents to students vaping in the bathrooms.
Board members also discussed locks for classroom doors to guard against intruders, while not impeding student and faculty access to classrooms during the regular course of the school year.
Bockman said in her research as to what other school districts are doing for door locks, she found a variety of approaches, and an accompanying variety of reactions to their systems.
“Some school districts are not using any type of door lock, some are using these barricade systems. Some of these in floor systems, some are using the U bolt system we talked about. And there are pluses and minuses on every side of those things,” she said, adding the prices varied widely among the models.
“In talking to some other superintendents and talking to our SROs and principals, we've all had numerous conversations about what the consensus is, we’d like to add door locks and we want to improve some other security features,” she said, namely student IDs they could print on campuses and updating their soon-to-be-obsolete alarm systems.
“We had a suggestion from an administrator to purchase a 3D printer and make sure that we immediately print student IDs, so that we can utilize that system in the upper level with the high school, middle school-aged kids, so they can use those student IDs,” she explained. “One thing we realized was, our alarm systems in our buildings, those need to be upgraded.
"So right now they function on 3G, so we have to upgrade our alarm systems, which I think is important. We don't have a choice. So we are currently getting bids on that.”
After several school administrators weighed in on the attributes of the various door lock systems, the board agreed to table any decisions until more research can be done.
The bond issue passed last year was intended to cover security and safety improvements on all campuses, a board member acknowledged, and should be able to cover the 3D printer, door locks and alarm system upgrades.
In other financial matters, Michael Catlett with Catlett & Associates of St. Louis gave an overview of the audit process for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
“We got everything that we asked for in a timely fashion,” he said about the district’s administrative cooperation. “There's always issues or questions, but they were always resolved or questions answered in a timely fashion. So we had no problems getting through the audit and getting the procedures performed that we needed to perform.”
He said if there had been any items needing the board’s attention, they would have been informed by Bockman well before his appearance at the board meeting.
“We didn't see anything, or nothing came to our attention that would require me communicating that to you,” he said.
Hubbard asked if the reserves were higher than last year, or if the volumes of COVID-19 public monies coming in had overinflated the bottom line. Catlett said no, the reserves were up about 1%, but many schools have expressed concern that the artificially-inflated gains from the pandemic money might be misperceived by legislators who would like to cut school funding, “and that'll cause problems further down the road potentially, as districts spend that money down. I don't know that that's going to happen. I'm just saying that could be a potential issue.”
The board unanimously approved the 2020-21 audit.
In his report, Assistant Superintendent Jason Samples reported a variety of Veterans Day celebrations and Thanksgiving activities among North County Primary, Parkside Elementary and the Intermediate schools.
Primary students created their own classroom floats and then walked around campus to honor veterans, with the school’s veterans Sarah Bequette, Steve Black, Laura House and Brian Whitfield acting as grand marshals. Parkside Elementary’s food service made breakfast for veterans, Art Teacher Melinda Bales decorated the hallways with a veterans theme, and Music Teacher Austin Sikes coordinated fourthgrad ers singing “America the Beautiful,” which was recorded by Jennifer Huff and posted.
Samples said the Parkside Canned Food Drive, sponsored by the PBS team, was coordinated with Bonne Terre Ministerial Alliance by Ashley Difabio and Shannon Carr. They exceeded the goal of 1,000, with 1,975 items donated. Three personnel have volunteered to be good sports and will receive a pie in the face to celebrate the students for reaching their goal.
Intermediate School celebrated Red Ribbon Week with dress-up days and a presentation about the harmful effects of vaping, drugs and alcohol. More than 50 veterans joined the school for Veterans Day breakfast. PBIS Student Ambassadors are donating a Thanksgiving meal to a family, adopting a homeless shelter family for Christmas, and ringing the bell for United Way. The teachers have been working with the District Continuous Improvement professional development group on Developing Assessment Capable Learners and School Based Implementation Coaching practices.
The district’s Transportation Department recently discovered they were selected to receive the DERA (Diesel Emissions Reduction Act) Grant. This will provide $45,000 to the district to help buy two new buses for the 2022-23 school year.
In his report, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brandon Gregory said North County Middle School recently raised money for Season of Hope, which put money in two envelopes with each sporting a picture of a school administrator’s face — the envelope with the most money means that administrator would receive a pie in the face. The administrator whose envelope raised $231.37 is Jason Toney, with the runner-up being Brenda Hampton, whose envelope raised $38.20. A bake sale will also be held.
Gregory reported that, at the high school, Jen Woolard coordinated a Veterans Day luncheon. The football team is 12-1 and was looking to face Hannibal High School in the semi-finals Saturday at 1 p.m.
UniTec recently hosted the annual SKILLS USA Conference this year. SKILLS is similar to the student council and recognizes student leaders from all over the state. Adult Career Education Director Justin Marler is working with Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education representatives to combine the ProTech (School to Work) program with Registered Youth Pre-Apprenticeships throughout the state. The UniTec Robotics team was 21-0 —when not playing against other UniTec teams — in a recent contest hosted by Potosi. There were 32 teams participating in this event.
Gregory reported that in Special Education, Night to Dream will be held 6-9 p.m. on Feb. 11. Night to Dream is an opportunity for high school students with special needs to have a Dream Night Prom. New Heights Church and community supporters will be hosting the event at the Farmington Civic and Centene centers. He said they will have hairdressers, make-up artists, shoe-shiners and coat checkers, and be given dinner, limo and party bus rides, crowns, flowers, paparazzi, a photo booth, DJ introductions and a dance. Each guest will have a high school buddy with whom to enjoy the evening.
Gregory extended thanks to educators Tami Crocker, Joanie Grimm and Jennifer Huff for their help in getting the Teacher Retention Grant, which will provide professional learning opportunities to staff and develop programs which are intended to benefit their overall health and morale.
The board also:
Moved the date of the next board meeting to Dec. 9, 6 p.m.
Recognized four players from the high school women’s tennis teams who did well at the championship games: sisters Hannah and Lauren Politte, Lucy Pace and Kate Jones.
Approved a training incentive of $500 for full-time and $250 for part-time employees who completed the stress-education program.
Approved MSBA policy updates.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.