School Board adopts new cell phone policy

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@nachitochestimescom

The school board approved a revised cell phone policy that eliminates cell phone use during the school day. During the last school year, there were 367 cell phone violations by 202 students. That was only 5.67 percent of the student population. Natchitoches Central Principal Bill Gordy said that of the 1,300 students at his school, there were only 204 offenses last year. Of those, 176 were first offenses and the others represented more than one. As problematic, he cited an algebra cell phone app that can work problems. Provencal Discipline Coordinator Dwayne Poe said cell phone use is not allowed because in the past, students took inappropriate pictures of others in the bathroom. He said some students are not mature enough to use them properly.

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Supt. Dale Skinner said the most problems occur when the phones ring and interrupt class and teachers have a hard time identifying which phone rang. With the new policy, Skinner said principals have been instructed to let students use school phones when necessary. Poe said that school events such as athletic practices end at the same time each day so parents will have no problem picking up their students. Cell phone use is not allowed on buses. A problem with the school calendar for the next school year will change the date for the Natchitoches Central homecoming activities and football game.

At the school board committee meeting Tuesday, the conversation between Gordy and board members took up about 30 minutes and was the most significant issue at the meeting. The school board approved the first school calendar in March. Gordy said as soon as that calendar was approved, the homecoming game was set for Oct. 25. A subsequent calendar, with the week of October 25 being declared a school holiday, was approved by the board. That was problematic for Gordy and he asked that the calendar be changed to allow homecoming to remain the week of Oct. 25.

After much discussion, Billy Benefield Jr., said it seemed to be a dead issue and would not be on the Thursday agenda for discussion. At the regular meeting Thursday, Gordy said the problem was solved with the homecoming game moved to Oct. 11.

In another matter, Director of Special Education Toni Bennett asked for board approval for her to proceed with securing a grant for a classification of special education students who have short term disabilities, injuries or mild reading disabilities. The grant will employ two people for a total of 240 hours to focus on providing employment transitional skills for those students and working to secure jobs and internships. The grant will provide $141,853 of which the board’s match will be $31,159.

Transportation Director for Ecco Ride Jason Edwards said his focus this summer is securing drivers for the next school year. His goal is to hire eight to 12 new drivers over the summer and he is half way there. There are 84 buses in the fleet and Ecco Ride has 160 employees including drivers, monitors and office workers. Skinner said he wants to explore ways to get rural students home sooner even if it costs more money.

Board member Emile Metoyer has scheduled a meeting at 6:30 p.m., June 13 at St. John Catholic Church Hall to assess whether there are enough students in his district to reopen the school at Cloutierville. There must be between 180-200 students to make the reopening economically feasible. Metoyer will also assess if there is enough in interest in opening the school to call for a bond issue in that district. Skinner said the board needs to put the issue to rest. The continuing conversation about reopening Cloutierville creates uncertainty and unrest among teachers since Skinner would have to take one from each existing school to staff Cloutierville.

“It’s not fair to bring it up over and over,” Skinner said. Cloutierville was closed during cost-cutting measures system-wide when schools lost programs such as physical education, art and music to meet the budget. The faculty and staff at Cloutierville were placed at other schools. Skinner said he and Metoyer solicited input from those interested in reopening the school for three nights resulting in only 24 students. Metoyer said many people in that area do not have cars and were unable to get to the central office. He believes having the meeting in Cloutierville will result in a better turnout.

Dorothy McGaskey suggested contacting parents by email.

•Pre-K through 4th Grade Cell Phone Policy Offenses will be handled at the principal’s discretion.

•5th through 8th Grade Cell Phone Policy

First Offense: The device will be seized and held for 3 days. The phone will be returned after 3 days. Second Offense: The device shall be seized and held for five (5) school days, and the student shall receive 1 day ISS if they surrender the phone or 3 days OSS if they refuse to surrender the phone. After five (5) school days, one or both parents/guardians of the student and the student must meet with the principal in charge of discipline whereby the device shall be returned to the parent/guardian. Third Offense: The device shall be seized and held for seven (7) school days, and the student shall be suspended out of school for three (3) days if they surrender the phone or five (5) school days if they refuse to surrender the phone. After seven (7) school days, one or both parents/guardians of the student and the student must meet with the principal in charge of discipline whereby the device will be returned to the parent/guardian. Fourth Offense: The device shall be seized and the student shall be recommended for expulsion to an alternate site. After the expulsion hearing has been conducted the device shall be returned to the parent or guardian.

•9th through 12th Grade Cell Phone Policy

First Offense: The device will be seized and held for 5 days. The phone will be returned after 5 days. Second Offense: : The device shall be seized and held for seven (7) school days, and the student shall receive 1 day ISS if they surrender the phone or 3 days OSS if they refuse to surrender the phone. After seven (7) school days, one or both parents/guardians of the student and the student must meet with the principal in charge of discipline whereby the device shall be returned to the parent/guardian. Third Offense: The device shall be seized and held for two (2) weeks, and the student shall be suspended out of school for three (3) school days if they surrender the phone or five (5) school days if they refuse to surrender the phone. After two (2) weeks, one or both parents/guardians of the student and the student must meet with the principal in charge of discipline whereby the device will be returned to the student. Fourth Offense: The device shall be seized and the student shall be recommended for expulsion to an alternate site. After the expulsion hearing has been conducted the device shall be returned to the student. Any material or pictures deemed to be inappropriate, illegal or malicious by the administration will be turned over to local law enforcement personnel. Students will be allowed to store the phone in their locker during the school day.