School board explores policy on drug testing


By Carolyn Roy carolyn@natchitochestimes

The Natchitoches Parish School Board will begin an exploration to develop policies about drug testing for new and current employees. At its meeting Thursday, the board voted to begin a study of the many facets of such a policy, including the costs. Board member Emile Metoyer initiated the agenda item for discussion expressing his concern for students around drug-impaired teachers and employees. Bus drivers already undergo random drug tests. Metoyer said nearly every company or business subjects its employees to drug testing and believes the school board should do so.

There was discussion about potentially developing a policy for new hires to be presented at the March meeting and a plan for current employees developed by June 1, with testing to begin 60 days later. While there was much discussion, nothing is certain except that the board will develop a policy. Board president Rhonda Guidroz emphasized, “This is an exploration.” One of the biggest factors is how much the drug testing will cost. Board members directed Supt. Dale Skinner to check with surrounding parish school systems to see if they have such policies, how they work and how much they cost.

Skinner will head the drug-testing committee with other members to join him if they want to. Director of Special Education Toni Bennett reported on the Behavior Based Learning Center established at Weaver Elementary. Students who have behavior problems are referred to the class for 45 days where they have daily behavior goals. Last week, four of the nine students in the class graduated and returned to their original classrooms. So far they have been successful. Weaver was chosen because there was an extra classroom to house the behavior center.

Bennett said one good problem is that the students relate so well to the center teacher, Leroy Armstrong, that they want to remain in the class after they reach their behavior goals. Bennett’s hopes to establish similar centers for students in grades four through eighth to prepare them for getting a high school diploma.

Skinner said that violations of lunchrooms cited by the La. Dept. of Health have been addressed with many of the violations being cited as “potentially.” One cited a moist cloth that was not properly stored and another was a courtyard door that needed weather stripping. Skinner said that some of the violations were the responsibility of him and the maintenance department rather than the lunchroom staff. A list of the violations can be viewed in his office. The board approved the contract with First Choice Therapy Inc., the company that has provided occupational and physical therapy to school board students for 20 years. “We couldn’t get better service,” Bennett said of the company whose local employees live in Natchitoches Parish.