Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

December 24, 2013

BCSC tests fresh contact method

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — A new method of notifying Batesville Community School Corp. parents and guardians about no school Dec. 16 was tested at around 8:50 a.m., superintendent Dr. Jim Roberts told trustees that night. The initial two-hour delay was changed to a last-minute cancellation because Franklin County leaders switched to a Level 2 travel advisory.

It took the automated School Messenger system 10-12 minutes to communicate with 2,100 BCSC families by phone. The process started after customary notifications were made to the media, plus Nixle, Twitter and Facebook, which lasted about half an hour.

He reported, “We do think it will be a really good system for us.”

The superintendent urged families to provide the correct phone numbers to schools. Most phones were either answered by persons or voicemail, but some of the messages didn’t get through. “We’ll continue to research those.” He advised district families to listen to BCSC messages before punching re-dial, which should avoid unnecessary phone calls to the administrative building in the future.

Trustee Wanita Linkel wondered if soon School Messenger would be the only method used to inform families about weather and other alerts. “We don’t want to overuse it,” Roberts replied. The method will be utilized “when we want them to know for sure something is happening,” such as an early dismissal.

Trustee Ray Call asked about School Messenger’s cost. It’s about $4,000, a little less than $2 per child. Several vendors were considered, with School Messenger chosen because it offers a free app, which should be available in late January, said director of learning Melissa Burton.

The superintendent updated the board on action taken after “there was an allegation to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights that we had mishandled a situation. We are complying” with the office’s recommendations.

One was to release an anti-harassment statement. It begins, “The Batesville Community School Corp. will not tolerate sexual harassment. As per BCSC Policy 4.0-30, Sexual Harassment Policy, BCSC works to maintain a learning and working environment that is free from sexual harassment. It is a violation of this policy for any employee of BCSC to harass another employee or student through conduct or communications of a sexual nature. It is also a violation of this policy for a student to harass another student through unwelcome conduct or communication of a sexual nature.” The statement can be read in its entirety at http://bcsc.batesvilleinschools.com/.

He added, “We are taking a look at our student codes of conduct to see if any changes need to be made .... We want to be agile enough when things come up” that handbook wording can be altered midyear. Trustees approved a revision to the Batesville Middle School handbook’s major misconduct code. It notes sexual harassment “might result in a conversation to a potential recommendation for expulsion from school.”

“A lot of people are paying attention” to the issue of random drug testing for students. The South Dearborn Community School Corp. recently approved a student drug testing policy, which BCSC trustees will read. The administrator will research costs for samples to be tested. “At some point in time, we come up with a recommendation to either do it or not.”

Comments are welcomed at each school board meeting, which usually are scheduled on the third Monday at 6 p.m. in the BMS commons. The superintendent asked about 20 Batesville High School students in attendance, “Is it a topic overall you think the student body will support?” One reported she had presented a speech in a speech class against random testing. Students “taken out of extracurricular activities do tend to go back to drugs,” she believed. The student asked, “What would you do” after a positive test?

Roberts said if instituted, the testing is “supposed to help, not harm, the individual.” He and other administrators plus trustees are exploring what other schools have done about drug testing.

Another teen said the issue was discussed in a government class. “Most were against it. It’s just an invasion of privacy.” When the principal explained help would be offered to drug users rather than an academic punishment, “it’s kind of keeping us with open minds.”

According to Roberts, “There would not be any out-of-school suspension.” He has mixed feelings about whether students with positive tests could still participate in afterschool activities.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

• Makeup days so far are Monday, Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day; Monday, Feb. 17, Presidents Day; and April 18, Good Friday, according to Roberts. If there is more bad weather that cancels school, makeup days would start with the first day of spring break's first week and continue that first week, then move to the end of the school year. He pointed out, "One of our reasons for a balanced calendar …was more opportunities to educate. We have committed to three days of intersessions" during spring break, but if three or more makeup days take place then, "we will not have any intersessions." • Looking at the proposed 2014-15 calendar, "given the crazy weather that we've experienced," Roberts asked trustees to designate the day before Thanksgiving a makeup day. That calendar, with Aug. 6 the first student day and May 28 the last one, and the 2015-16 calendar, with Aug. 5 the first student day and May 26 the final one, were approved. Students will rotate attending school on Presidents Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day every other year. • Franklin County's assessed valuation rose to $263 million, $16 million or 6.5 percent more. Ripley County's assessed valuation increased to $399 million, up $3.76 million or 1 percent. This means BCSC's assessed valuation was $19.8 million or 3.1 percent higher. Roberts noted, "That does help drive those property tax numbers." He projected the district's property tax rate at about 73 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for properties in both counties, lower than surrounding districts. • Trustees approved salary hikes for administrators that averaged 2.4 percent. • The board voted to transfer $75,000 from the Transportation Fund to the Rainy Day Fund to cover severance and retirement expenses. He said, "We do have a large number of retirements coming up at the end of the school year." • A decision to sign a letter of intent with EMCOR Construction Services, Fort Wayne, to proceed with the development and engineering for energy savings at Batesville Primary School at costs of up to $75,000 in preparation for a potential summer 2014 project was tabled because two of five trustees were absent (Chris Lowery and Dr. Steve Stein). The contract is expected to be signed Jan. 20 before the Feb. 14 deadline. • Personnel decisions were OK'd by trustees. Certified - new: Wendy Eisert, BIS third-grade remediation teacher; Diana King, BIS fourth-grade remediation teacher; Amanda Meyer, BIS fifth-grade remediation teacher. Classified - medical leaves: Robyn Fledderman, BPS Title I reading tutor; Amy Siebert, BMS clerical aide; Barb Maple, BMS instructional aide; maternity leave: Angela Marksberry, BIS cafeteria worker; resignations: Pamela Thomas, BIS secretary; Donna Maples, BIS cafeteria worker; Valerie Fields, BHS cafeteria worker; new: Elizabeth Ertel, BPS Ripley-Ohio-Dearborn Special Education Cooperative preschool paraprofessional; Mary Moorman, Gretchen Gutzwiller and Alice Nuhring, BIS substitute cafeteria workers; Courtnei Weberding, BIS secretary; Kate Enneking, BIS receptionist; Jamie Nobbe, BIS instructional assistant. Extracurricular - new: Brian Roleson, BHS baseball freshman coach; William Ollier, BHS baseball volunteer assistant; Steve Yeaton and Mike Reverman, BHS track volunteer assistants; John Kellerman, BHS Academic Team coach. Transportation - new: Debbie Westerfeld, BCSC special needs route bus driver; Matt Wiedeman, BSCS Route 7 bus driver.