Board continues cell phone policy discussion

Flandreau school board members continued their discussion about school district’s electronic communication device policy at the board meeting on May 8.

The current policy states that students cannot use their personal electronic devices during the school day in classrooms, hallways or other academic settings. These devices include anything not provided by the school: cell phones, iPods, mp3 players.

But cell phones can be used in the lunchroom or gymnasium, designated phone zones, before school and during lunch hour. However, they must be put away, turned off and out of sight at all other times, including passing period between classes.

The discussion, which has been an agenda item at the last four meetings, centered around whether it’s an enforcement issue of the school board, administration and, subsequently, the teaching staff and whether or not to change the procedure altogether.

Board member Matt Lacey presented the group with a no tolerance proposal regarding cell phones in the school.

He said in the process of putting his proposal together, he found very little on the benefits of cell phones in a classroom setting.

“As a FOCUS school, we are by definition in the lowest quarter of our peers,” Lacey said. “My concern that by allowing cell phones we are continuing to disadvantage our students by keeping their test scores down on this criteria.”

School board members Tom Stenger and Brian Johnson each said they would be in favor of the current policy as it stands, but that it needs to be enforced.

From the beginning of the electronics policy being put in place, the procedure morphed into teacher discretion.

“I was the one who brought this up four months ago,” said board president Darren Hamilton. “But I don’t think we’d be here if we had a solid policy as it stands. If that policy had been enforced from the board and administration to students and teachers then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. That being said, we probably shouldn’t have a policy that has the term ‘discretion’ in it. We need a policy that is black and white, in my opinion, something we can enforce. And that doesn’t vary from classroom to classroom.”

The consensus of the board was split, with opinions varying from no cell phones at all, sticking to and enforcing the current policy, adding into the current procedure that teachers also cannot use phones and working with students to teach proper use of the devices.

Board member Clay Pavlis asked what advantage allowing cell phones in the school would provide for the education of the students.

“I don’t see why we would even continue to allow it,” Pavlis said. “If most of us agree that it’s an addiction I have no idea why we still allow it. I have not heard one reason that we need this other than it’s too hard [to enforce]. Why do we need these things in our school? How does it make our school better?”

Pat Weight, the middle and high school band teacher, said he looks at the issue from the perspective of the school district’s mission, “Empowering all students to become learners and leaders in a diverse and dynamic world.”

He said he uses his cell phone while working with his classes as a metronome and a tuner and that he likes to think he’s using the device responsibly in his workplace.

“I just feel like if our entire mission here as a school is to teach our kids how to integrate into society, we can teach them how to live without things like a cell phone, but also how to function well with them,” Weight said.

Though no consensus was reached, the board will continue to look into and get more information on the educational uses, purposes and benefits of cell phones in the school.

In other action, the Flandreau school board

held the second reading of the school paying for background checks for substitutes.

discussed the preliminary 2017-18 budgets.

approved the Avera Health Plan Participation Agreement, Avera Athletic Training and Sports Marketing Agreement and the School Health Service contract with Avera.

approved the everyday dismissal time of 3:30 p.m. starting at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.

approved an administrative waiver to allow high school credit for eighth grade algebra.

approved the following resignations: Rachel Weisbecker at high school English/FACS teacher, Tonia Krumvieda as elementary paraprofessional, Marissa Stone as assistant volleyball coach, Jake Otkin as junior high football coach.

approved the stipends for FOCUS, student teaching supervision, Saturday School, SDSU Spirit of Science award and Teacher-of- the Year.

approved the supplemental budget.

voted for Steve Moore of Watertown and ‘yes’ on amendment for the SDHSAA elections.

approved the SDHSAA resolution.

acknowledged a Public School Exemption.

approved an open enrollment.

declared the following as surplus: Dodge pickup, Ford Contour, two dishwashers, outdated tech supplies

approved the following new hires: Spencer Yackley as fourth grade teacher and junior high football and basketball coach, Lauren McCafferty as second grade teacher and assistant volleyball coach, Rachel Koopman as elementary special education teacher and Jake Otkin as assistant football coach.

approved the graduating class of 2017 if they successfully complete all required coursework.

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