BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Board of Education approved on first reading Thursday a policy that would require all school visitors to have an appointment or an invitation in order to make it past the school office.
The board met at 4:30 p.m. at the Greene Technology Center, located on Hal Henard Road.
If approved on second reading at the board's February meeting, the "Safety" policy change would add the following language:
"For student safety and to preserve the learning environment, school visitors must have an appointment or have an invitation in order to be permitted into the main building.
"Open-invitation events shall take place as scheduled by each school."
Board member Deborah Johnson objected to this change, saying that it would only discourage parent and school board members' involvement.
"We should do all we can to keep our students safe," she said. "I do not understand how calling ahead keeps students any safer than the procedure we presently have in place for visitors in the schools."
Other board members, however, said that they feel this will improve safety and emphasized that it is not to discourage parental involvement.
"As a school board member, I always like to call because I want to make sure [an administrator] is there," board member Rick Tipton said. "I see violence and crime every day where I work. I guess I see it in a different light."
Board Chairman Nathan Brown agreed, saying that he thought it would aid in safety.
The board approved the policy on first reading on a 5-1 vote, with Johnson opposed and board member Kathy Austin absent.
Other policy changes were unanimously approved on first reading, including:
* an "extensive rewrite" of the Graduation Requirements policy to update the formal policy to conform to the school system's actual practice, in matching state requirements for ACT scores necessary for graduating with honors and requirements set by the state Board of Education four years ago regarding special-education graduations;
* striking language from the Student Insurance Program policy that allows a student to play athletics without any proof of insurance if the student's parent is willing to sign acceptance of all financial responsibility. This change would prevent a student from participating in athletics without proof of health insurance.
* creating a Traffic and Parking Controls form and a Crisis Team form for principals to submit annually to Central Office; and,
* making editorial changes to various policies.
On second reading, the board gave final approval to the following policy changes:
* the formation of a Facilities Planning Policy detailing an annual assessment of facility needs and an Asbestos Management Plan;
* allowing students not participating in graduation activities a period of one week, rather than one day, after the ceremony to pick up their diploma, adding language to say that principals shall ensure that students graduating with distinction or honors are recognized at graduation, and adding language to say that student speeches are their own and not endorsed by the school system;
* updating the Payroll Procedures and Energy Education Guidelines policies to match system practices;
* adding specific requirements for inventories of equipment purchased with federal funds, as well as adding a new system for inventorying computers and devices; and,
* granting workers in the Extended School Day/Year Programs raises at the same time that the system grants any raises to classified staff.
Johnson objected to "across the board" pay increases, saying that the system should tie such raises to evaluations and performance.
The board approved this policy 5-1, with Johnson voting 'no.' The other policies received unanimous approval.
Central Office employees provided the board with a number of reports during the meeting.
Budget Director Mary Lou Woolsey reported that the system will have $2.1 million left in savings after a recently-approved $800,000 expenditure on capital projects and technology.
Data Assessment & Evaluation Supervisor Dr. Julia Lamons introduced staff from Doak Elementary School, who gave a presentation on allowing students to track their own performance scores and set goals.
Assistant Director David McLain reported that new advertisements on the outside of buses have so far raised nearly $700 for the system.
Supervisor Dr. Kristi Wallin reported on the system's Extended School Program (ESP), which provides school-age childcare outside school hours.
ESP is available at four locations in the county: Chuckey, DeBusk, Doak and Mosheim elementary schools.
On average, between 20 to 50 students daily attend ESP at each location, Wallin said.
In other business, the board approved the following:
* contracting Skyward Inc. as the system's student information system at the cost of $52,000, plus $19,000 in annual maintenance;
* contracting School Insights as the web hosting services at the cost of $11,400 in annual charges and $1,700 in one-time setup fees, before Erate discounts;
* approving Mid-South Bus Center as the low-bidder for 78, 84 and 30-passenger buses;
* allocating adjustments to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);
* adjusting job descriptions for academic coaches and learning leaders;
* setting the 2014-15 school calendar;
* scheduling a pre-season softball tournament for March 7-8 at Baileyton Elementary School;
* approving the Nolachuckey girl's basketball team to attend the TNT State Basketball Tournament;
* appointing David GeFellers as baseball coach, Dean Keys as volunteer baseball coach and Tony King as a volunteer assistant softball coach at West Pines Elementary School; and
* approving out-of-state field trips.
The board also recognized Beth Frye for being named TSSAA District I Female Coach of the Year; Major David Wims and Master Sergeant Kent Lyons for earning the Junior ROTC Unit Merit Award; North Greene High School student McKenzie Reynolds and South Greene High School student Alora Ricker for being named Niswonger Scholars; and elementary students who won the system's Trash to Art contest.