Marion BOE to consider drug-testing policy

After hearing from several concerned patrons at its Nov. 11 meeting, the USD 408 Board of Educa- tion agreed to consider a draft of a policy about random drug-testing of students.

Rex Savage, board president, made a motion that Superintendent Gerry Henderson work on a drug policy, including actual costs, for the board to consider next month and possibly implement in January 2003.

The motion passed 5-2, with Gene Bowers and Roger Hannaford III voting against it.

Henderson reported he had e-mailed every superintendent in Kansas, asking if any had a policy on drug testing. Fredonia, Bluestem at Leon and Columbus were the only schools to respond, he said.

He said Buhler and Quinter schools use a breathalyzer to check students at school dances. Henderson said using a breathalyzer is a different method than random drug testing. He had acquired information that testing for drugs would cost between $25 and $60 per student, depending on the procedure used.

Henderson said the state allows a school only to test students in connection with extra-curricular activities.

Board member Keith Collett raised the issue of which events and activities could be considered extra curricular. He warned that a class activity requiring attendance for a grade would not be eligible, but testing students in any extra activity associated with that class could be justified.

Tod Gordon, Marion Middle School principal, and Ken Arnold, Marion High School principal, said their faculty would like a policy. Both had discussed the issue at staff meetings. Teachers felt some students need a deterrent from the peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol.

Arnold said if testing was approved, the administration would be preparing students for the future because drug testing is required in some work environments.

Dan Holub, patron and past board member, presented a petition with 150 names indicating support for a drug policy. He said the petition was not a crusade to get kids in trouble, but doing something, even if it was not 100 percent guaranteed, would be a step in the right direction.

Bowers, board vice-president, questioned the civil liberties of a drug-testing policy. He said he hoped a different type of program, perhaps one with parent participation, could be looked into as an alternative.

MES assessments

Third-grade teachers Julie Trapp, Sheila Baldwin and Beth Schobert presented the assessment report for students in kindergarten through third-grade. The report outlined state standards, including the requirement that a student have an 80 percent understanding of each subject before moving into the fourth grade.

The teachers said it was easier to identify progress in math than in reading. They said the assessment helps them identify what students still need to learn.

Stan Ploutz, MES principal, said the findings were helpful tools for developing teaching strategies. He affirmed the teachers for their hard work and said they are laying the necessary groundwork for all grades, kindergarten through sixth.

Saturday school

A request passed 6-1 to change the handbook requiring mandatory Saturday school and holding students and parents accountable for keeping students from falling behind. Board member Doug Sharp voted against it.

Gordon and Arnold told the board they have developed a study plan involving Saturday school for students who have not reached class goals. They asked the board to support the program to keep students from falling behind since some students need more learning assistance and others require extra attendance for disciplinary reasons.

By meeting on Saturday, the school could provide additional time students may need to help them academically since “teachers and space already are available,” Gordon said.

Phoebe Janzen, school counselor, added that many students choose to fail by not turning in assignments.

“If parents don’t account for homework time, the school becomes accountable,” she said.

The extra time offered by the school could help students who do not use the time already allocated in school, or don’t have parents who avail themselves for their kids.

Arnold said Saturday school would not be just for disciplinary purposes or excessive absences. Some students need a quiet environment for study and elect to use this option.

New league?

Henderson asked for the board’s permission to pursue a new league affiliation rather than wait for the outcome of Cottonwood Valley League’s decision about disbanding.

Henderson said he was quite sure the CVL would dissolve, and hoped the Mid Central Activities Association would expand.

He said the talk has been positive about Marion joining the MCAA. If that comes about, Marion would be the eastern-most team in what currently is a 10-school league.

“We are on the agenda for next week’s meeting,” Henderson said. “There’s a good chance we’ll be invited to the January meeting,” Henderson said.

Other business

Casey Case, with Case & Son Insurance, presented the board an estimate for insurance premiums next year. He said the premium would increase 20 to 25 percent next year, with a projected cost of more than $47,000 for the upcoming year.

Case said he would not have a written rate-quote until the next board meeting, but he assured the board it was getting “as good as you can get right now.”

MHS cross country coach Matt Robert introduced runners Zac Ewert, who took 19th, and Jessica Deforest, who placed 21st, at the state cross country meet at Wamego. Robert and Henderson commended their accomplishments in a sport requiring self-discipline and goals.

The board approved several requests: from Centre to use Marion’s pole-vault equipment; an asbestos reinspection expense; a sewer easement on MES property; and two fund-raisers-a book fair for Forensics and a soup supper for Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).

The board also approved request that Julie Trapp be coordinator of an after-school program that would offer clubs for chess and cooking, tutoring, and other events.

In his role as athletic director, Gordon said he would have to buy new softballs this year. Although he still has some softballs in their original boxes, which were purchased last year, the national federation for high school softball has mandated that the compression be stamped on each ball. Since the softballs from last year only have the compression stamped on the box, the balls are now illegal.

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