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WPSB talks policy

by Minden Press-Herald

Personnel evaluations also discussed

The Webster Parish School Board held its second regular meeting of the month Monday evening, discussing such topics as employee dress codes, tobacco policy, and free meals for students.

Personnel Director Robin Tucker presented the board with an updated Personnel Evaluation Manual, which was eventually approved unanimously. The updates focused on spelling out the evaluation process for certified school district employees who do not fall under the Louisiana COMPASS evaluation system.

“When we went to COMPASS, everybody got strictly focused on that COMPASS form,” Tucker said. “But that doesn’t include deans of students and many other certified, degree-holding professionals. And we wanted to make sure they had a streamlined evaluation form.”

Prior to these updates, there had been no rubric by which these particular employees were to be assessed.

Board members Frankie Mitchell and Linda Kinsey expressed concern about the “subjectivity” of the wording of a few areas in the manual. Mitchell said phrases like “professional attire” could be interpreted many different ways when enforcing a dress code, and Kinsey said the same could be true of phrases like “good attendance.”

The school district does not have a universal dress code, but some area principals have set their own code for employees at their school. In response to the concerns, Tucker said she would change the wording involving dress code to defer to the standards of individual schools. The phrase “as expected by the school district” was also added to the attendance verbiage.

Assistant Superintendent Kevin Washington fielded more questions on the proposed new handbook policies presented to the board at the last meeting.
“Most of the changes that have come about, we can always do more, but we can’t do less,” he said. “The legislature sets in place a set of guidelines that we have to follow. We can always add more teeth, but we cannot take away.”

These updates include a major change to the “Smoking/Tobacco Use on School Board Property” policy. The policy will now expand to prohibit the use of smoking objects such as “electronic cigarettes, advanced personal vaporizers, vape pens, vape mods and similar devices” at any school facility in addition to traditional smoke and tobacco products, which were already banned. Use of these products within 20-50 feet of any school board property will be prohibited.
Other policy topics include students self-applying sunscreen and liability insurance for service animals. For more in-depth coverage, see the July 4 edition of the Press-Herald.

The school district also announced its continuation of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program, through which all Webster Parish schools will offer completely free breakfast and lunch to all enrolled students. Tucker said good participation numbers are key to maintaining this offering beyond the 2018-2019 school year.

“Please encourage your communities to participate in the lunchroom, even if they don’t eat everything on their plate,” she said to the board. “Our participation determines whether or not it will be able to remain free in the future. I would hate for us to lose this program because it benefits so many students.”

In his report, Superintendent of Schools Johnny Rowland gave an update on the process of acquiring relief funds from FEMA for the old Minden High School gymnasium/natatorium that was heavily damaged in the flooding of 2016.

According to Rowland, FEMA has thus far promised $382,000 in relief funds, with a potential $100,000 more if the school can provide sufficient documentation for contents of the gym that were destroyed.

The board also went into a comparatively brief executive session to discuss matters related to the ACLU religion litigation. Upon returning to regular session, the board voted unanimously to heed the advice of their legal counsel. Board members Charles Strong and Ronnie Rhymes were absent.

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