An emotional plea from a mother requesting that her child be allowed to attend the Vilonia School District stirred the emotions of the Board of Education, but they held steadfast on their 20-year policy regarding transfers.
Addressing the board, a mother said her child, attending school in another district, is in a “toxic environment” and being bullied. She said she had tried to resolve the issues with officials in that district to no avail. She asked the Vilonia board to make an exception to their policy regarding transfers giving her child “a chance.”
“I’m not trying to send you a bad kid,” she said. The student was also present and addressed the board regarding the situation.
Allowing the transfer, Dr. Frank Mitchell, school superintendent said, would open the door to others. It’s your choice, he said, addressing the board, whether to affirm the policy or make an exception. A few minutes of discussion, board president Jerry Roberts said the policy has been working “a long time.”
“We’ve got to have a policy,” he added.
Board members sympathized with the mother and encouraged her to reach out to officials in the other school district until she is able to rectify the situation.
“My heart goes out to you,” said board member Scott Newell. Yet, he made the motion to uphold the district’s policy. After a brief discussion regarding the School Choice Act, the board encouraged the mother to enroll the student next year in the Vilonia district under those guidelines. Contact must be made to do so by June 1, prior to the beginning the next school year.
“I will,” she said, adding, “but this could be a very long and hard year.”
In other business, the board:
• Discussed purchasing a new security system to be installed district wide. Technology director Bill Beavers said a new system would provide more cameras and higher definition to “what is going on and who is doing it.”
The board encouraged Beavers to contact security companies, and provide specifics and projects costs at the October meeting.
• Discussed a personnel policy meeting where the committee approved several changes. Some of the changes, Mitchell said, were only changes in wording. For instance, he said, the tobacco use policy was reworded to say smoking or the use of tobacco in any form is prohibited in or on any real property owned or leased by the school district, including school buses. The policy now includes E-cigars and E-cigarettes.
• Also, wording was changed regarding the releasing of information about students receiving free and reduced lunch eligibility. The policy is now clearer regarding students’ privacy and the consequences of doing so. “This is treated pretty seriously if you violate it,” Mitchell said.
• Discussed the budget. It was said the beginning balance of the 2013-14 operating fund was $6.6 million and it is estimated the ending balance will be about $6.8 million. It is anticipated there will be a slight increase in the operating budget this year, said Kevin Luck, the district business manager. There will also be an increase in spending due to costs associated with the new Intermediate School.
“We are projecting a positive financial outlook,” Luck added.
• A policy regarding social networking and ethics definitions was tabled, by the committee, for future discussion. The policy deals with what employees say on social media networks and the grounds for dismissal. Freedom of speech is a factor, said Chere’ Beavers, a member of the policy committee. She talked briefly about the discussion by the committee saying some things said on social medias could result in “ethical backlash.” She said the committee agreed there should be more discussion before a decision is made on the policy and exact wording.
• Approved a trip to Branson for band students playing at a game at Harrison. The students will pay their own way. A bus will be available to transport band students, who do not want to attend, back to Vilonia following the game. Four band directors and parents will be supervising the trip. Band director Philip Nichols was directed to check into purchasing a rider insurance policy.
• Discussed the need for a training session for school board members regarding curriculum instruction. The session, Mitchell said, would allowed board members to be involved in discussion on Common Core standards and TESS training.
• Approved the purchase of cabinets for the Primary safe room at a cost of $20,000, spending $14,000 for helmet reconditioning and $74 to Sew-What to pay for monograming.