The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors held its monthly Regular Meeting on September 15, 2014, as well as the Finance Committee and Policy Committee Meetings. All Board Members were in attendance.
During the Regular Meeting, the Board approved all listed recommended action items.
The First Reading of Policy 0006.1 “Attendance at Meetings Via Electronics” and 708 “Lending of School Owned Equipment and Books” were removed from the agenda. The Policy Committee determined more discussion was needed.
On the vote to approve the Parameters Resolution for the 2010A, 2010B and 2011 Series Bonds, Sam Ganow asked if we had shopped prices for the cost with other firms. The answer was we have not.
On the vote to approve the agreement with ATI Holding, LLC for athletic training services, Sherri Milton had several questions regarding included vs billable hours. While the item was passed, those answer will not be answered until the next Board Session.
Drug & Alcohol Policy and Extracurricular Activities
During the Policy Committee Meeting, two parents attended and voiced concerns about the District’s “zero tolerance” drug and alcohol policy, as it related to athletics. The parents believed there were some inconsistencies between the Student Handbook and School Policy, and that both were riddled with ambiguity.
The Committee is working on creating a drug testing policy modeled after Lampeter-Strasburg School District’s Drug Screening Policy. There seemed to be a general consensus among those in attendance that an overall look at our drug and alcohol policy and procedures needs to be closely reviewed.
The intent of the Committee is to, with community discussion, create the strictest 24/7/365 Drug and Alcohol Policy allowable by law. However, there is no intent to “criminalize” student mistakes or misjudgments, but to provide reasonable consequences along with getting students the help they may need. Abuse of drugs and alcohol is a Student Safety issue this Committee, and the entire Board, takes very seriously.
The Finance Committee will have a Preliminary Budget review on November 17th, and then the Board is expected to adopt a resolution authorizing the Proposed Budget Display and Advertising on December 8th. A resolution approving the Preliminary Budget & Authorizing Referendum Exception or opt-out resolution will be on January 19, 2015.
It is expected that the District’s index limit will be 2.4 – 2.5%. However, the Administration intends to ask the Board to authorize the application to exempt the District from this tax increase limit.
Nepotism vs Cronyism
Lancaster Online reporter Debbie Wygent, wrote her article, about yesterday’s meeting, focussing on the Board vote on the first read of several Nepotism Policies. She wrote,
At a work session on Sept. 8, board president Lisa Bowman said the school board decided to give the nepotism issue top priority for review following recent allegations made by board member Tim Alexander that nepotism was a factor in awarding a security contract to Signal 88 of Parkesburg.
However, Bowman said Monday the board had reviewed nepotism policies in spring before Alexander’s allegations.
Bowman said nepotism — favoritism granted in politics or business to relatives — was not a factor in the vote to go with Mango’s firm.
This really needs to be addressed.
- I don’t know what Ms Bowman did and did not say to Debbie Wygent, but the Nepotism Policy was being reviewed because it related to the Sexual Abuse Policy that was recently updated. It had nothing to do with Signal 88.
- The Nepotism Policy had its first look back in May or June, before the Signal 88 controversy. Never once, in any meeting, was it stated the policy was being reviewed in relation to any “allegations” or favoritism in relation to Signal 88.
- When the Nepotism Policy was first reviewed, I noted that it only related to favoritism granted to relatives and romantic relationships. I had asked for the inclusion of language prohibiting cronyism, the practice of favoritism toward friends and associates. That recommendation received little interest, and language prohibiting and discouraging cronyism was never added to the policy.
I personally would think that if there was a serious interest on avoiding allegations of favoritism that we would have the will to develop policy to address it in all its forms. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The Octorara Area School District does not currently have any policy prohibiting favoritism based on social, business, or political friendships.
~ Addendum ~
What Lisa Bowman Did and Did Not Say
I mentioned above that I did not know (at the time I wrote this blog post) what Ms Bowman did and did not say to Debbie Wygent. I do now.
On September 9th, the Lancaster Online Correspondant emailed Policy Committee Members making a general statement about the policies they update every month, and giving them the opportunity to comment. The only specific question asked was, “Is or has nepotism ever been a problem at Octorara?”
Lisa Bowman responded stating that the policies up for first reading in September, including the policies on nepotism, were all a follow up from Policy 806 “Child/Student Abuse,” approved in January 2014.
Ms Bowman informed Wygent that when the Board approved Policy 806, it was with the intent of reviewing the additional policies referenced. Some of those policies were reviewed and approved in June, and the ones currently on the agenda are the remaining referenced policies.
It was specifically stated to Wygent that the policy review is not due to any current issue or concern. It was just a follow through on policy review, and she was given a copy of the January Board Minutes.
Ms Bowman became very upset with the many inaccuracies from the Lancaster Online article, not only the false statements attributed to her. When the article came to her attention, she immediately contacted both the correspondent and spoke with the Editor.
Revisions were made on the article, but Ms Bowman remains concerned Lancaster Online continued to omit the true reason why the nepotism policy, along with the others, are being reviewed. She stated, “It’s disappointing that when we provide factual info (or at least proof from the minutes and I told them to watch the video of the meetings too), that they ignore that.”