Policy manual review divides school board

September 18, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

A recommendation to review the Board of Education's policy manual resulted in a factious school board meeting last week.

The proposal called for the appointment of a committee to review the manual and present its findings to the board for its input and final endorsement. The manual has been amended but has not been updated in 14 years.

A discussion among board members quickly generated two opposing sides, each tenaciously holding to its views.

Board member George D. Lisby raised the first red flag about the use of a committee to look at the policies.

"It will lack the vitality that should exist. It should be reviewed by the board," he said.

Keith A. Williams agreed, saying, "We consistently establish committees for work we should be doing."

Ronald R. Eaton, the new board president, said, "This committee doesn't write policy. It puts the board in the position to make a conscious decision to revisit every policy in the book."

The committee proposed for appointment by Superintendent Ray R. Keech included Kathryn Carmello, Harford County Council of PTAs; student Erin Fitzgerald; teacher Sheron Lumsden; Ronald Garner, who represents custodial and maintenance workers; Linda Hash, representing secretaries, clerks, instructional assistants and others; Donna Rymer, a member of the business community; school administrator James Bennett; and Donald R. Morrison, a school spokesman and member of the executive staff.

Jon Andes, assistant superintendent for personnel and staff relations, was to lead the panel.

"I think it's an outstanding group," said board member Thomas ** D. Hess, who supported the appointment of a committee.

The dispute continued for about 30 minutes, until it became clear that no one was giving ground.

Eventually, the board passed a motion by Mr. Lisby calling for the board itself to review the manual. The vote was 4-3.

"In the absence of a proposal, the motion has just scrapped our review of the manual at this time," Mr. Hess said after the vote. "That motion killed what is in dire need of culling, updating and review."

The board plans to continue its discussion on how to review the policy manual in October.

Also during the meeting, Paula Etting of Bel Air said she was concerned about gradeless report cards.

"It doesn't inspire efforts on the part of the children," said the mother of a first-grader and a fourth-grader. "With such a fundamental change, we should have a public airing."

The pilot report card system for students in the second grade and younger uses a checklist instead of letter grades. The

program, in its fourth year, has been expanded to include all 31 county elementary schools.

L "We're doing surveys to get parental input," Dr. Keech said.

He assured Mrs. Etting that there had been a public session during the last school year. At a Jan. 10 school board meeting, Patricia L. Skebeck, principal of Hall's Cross Roads Elementary and head of the committee that is working on the reporting method, presented an update on the report cards.

The superintendent is expected to present his recommendation on the report card program to the board in April or May, Mr. Morrison said, and the public will be able to respond to that recommendation.

Before that, concerned parents may contact their schools, he said.

Dr. Keech also announced a new meeting schedule. Board meetings now will be held twice a month.

The board will continue its regular business meetings at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month but will cancel its 4 p.m. sessions. The board also has informational meetings on the third Monday of each month, at least until the first of the year.

The board also changed its meeting site in Southampton Middle School to the cafeteria from the auditorium, where school board members sat above the crowd on a stage.

"This puts us on the same playing field as the constituents," Mr. Eaton said.

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