School board sets stage for attendance policy update, partnership with judicial system

As part of the agenda for Thursday night’s Carter County School Board meeting, board members passed the first reading of a new attendance policy.

The vote comes after repeated conversations about chronic absenteeism in county schools. Between this meeting and last, county schools met with parents and other board members to see if there was a policy change that would provide the greatest benefit while minimizing potential harm.

Last week, Secondary Supervisor Danny McClain presented the first solution: reducing the number of parent call-ins from three per semester to two per year.

This change went before the board Thursday night for an official vote. There was a hurdle to cross, however.

Would the policy apply retroactively to the first few weeks of the 2019/2020 school year?

“During the workshop, we talked about it would, to be fair to everybody, it would start tomorrow,” Danny Ward said.

This issue became of particular importance because board members acknowledged they already made mistakes in getting word out on the new attendance policy when the school year started.

“We need to do a really good job at communicating this, since we did not do that at the beginning of the school year,” LaDonna Stout-Boone said.

Ultimately, the board decided this kind of policy change needed two readings in order to go into effect. To simplify the process, the board voted to approve the first reading and to make the second reading in December, so as to make the policy official for the spring 2020 semester.

Patty Woodby, representing the county clerk’s office, came to the school board to propose a legislative program to the students.

“I have always said our office sees the good and the very bad of this county,” Woodby said.

She said she wanted to put together a panel of people, including members of the judicial system, to come to the schools and teach about the real consequences of breaking the law and some misconceptions about what is legal and what is not.

“What we do not teach is that when you make all those right choices, and work hard, that can all be taken away with one bad choice,” she said.

Topics such a group would talk about include vaping, sexting and more. This is especially important, she said, because the law considers a person an adult at the age of 18, something many high school students do not realize.

Superintendent Kevin Ward said such a program would primarily target freshmen in high school.

Woody said her five participants have already agreed, but they are still working on a schedule as to when they would come into each school.

Happy Valley High School student Alex Caldwell came to the board to propose a multi-purpose building for the school as his Eagle Project.

“It would be between the gym and the cafeteria,” Caldwell said.

As part of the Boy Scouts of America’s requirements for its highest rank, Eagle, the scout must organize and complete a community project, also known as an Eagle Project. The project requires several different approvals at various stages from the BSA, and Caldwell said approval from the BSA is necessary before he can start fundraising efforts.

He said he already spoke with HVHS Principal Doug Mitchell, who is in favor of the project.

The project would cost around $10,000 to $12,000.

The board unanimously voted in favor of the construction, but said Caldwell should get back in touch with them about the price point should the fundraising not be enough to cover the cost, as they would need to approve any funding from the school system.

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