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School Board leafs through policies in 2-day meeting

They started with flying fish and ended with plans to develop a new and shorter policy manual by the beginning of 2003.

The School Board spent Tuesday and half of Wednesday reviewing significant chunks of the district's 10-year-old, 500-page policy manual. They discussed pre-employment drug testing policy and medication rules, corporal punishment and the use of cell phones on campus by students.

To make the process less tedious, board Chairwoman Pat Deutschman started by showing a video that introduced the board to the district's new "fish philosophy."

That philosophy is illustrated in the video, which profiles a Seattle fish market populated by fun-loving, fish-throwing employees. They believe in having fun at work, focusing on customer needs and choosing to have a positive attitude.

But the board had serious work to do sifting through mounds of policies that have not been updated for years.

Early Tuesday, board attorney Richard "Spike" Fitzpatrick proposed another option: The board could hire a firm to update the policies for them. The board agreed and formally voted at a special meeting later to spend up to $18,000 for that purpose.

Still, the board decided to root through the thick document anyway, to provide guidance for whatever firm is hired.

Some of the issues discussed included:

Medication policy

Board member Carol Snyder questioned the ban on possessing over-the-counter medications, including such items as cough drops, eye drops and aspirin.

Fitzpatrick noted that such items could cause health problems if other students used them improperly. By lifting the ban, he said, the district would give approval to possession of potentially dangerous medication.

Still, board members were concerned that it was too much to ask for parents to bring a child's cough drops to school so they could come get them several times a day from the school nurse.

Fitzpatrick suggested the policy could be modified to allow students themselves to bring such items to the nurse with a note from their parents. Board members liked his suggestion.

Pre-employment drug testing

Snyder voiced concern about the $75 cost for drug tests and fingerprinting for potential substitute employees. "It's not fair at all," she said.

Superintendent David Hickey said there is nothing the district could do about the cost.

Revisiting the success of the pre-employment drug testing program, however, is another issue.

Deutschman asked staffers to report the number of applicants who have tested positive for drugs and the costs involved in the program to help the board assess the program's effect.

Board member Sandra "Sam" Himmel questioned whether a test can be done after someone is offered a job contingent on a clean drug test.

But Deutschman said she doubted the value of the tests; all they showed, she said, were whether someone had taken drugs before taking the test.

Corporal punishment; cell phones

Snyder said she still believed corporal punishment should be banned. "I think it's a parent's responsibility," she said.

But Snyder was on the losing side when the issue arose earlier this year. So she suggested the policy require parents who want their children paddled for discipline opt in to that choice.

Currently, the opposite is true: Parents who don't want their children paddled must opt out.

Other board members who have favored keeping paddling as a disciplinary option liked the idea; Himmel even suggested parents could include their feeling on the paddling question each year when they fill out medical information cards for their children.

Deutschman said she wants to hear from school advisory/enhancement councils on the topic. She also wanted those groups to discuss their ideas about cell phones.

Several board members have pushed to ban student use of cell phones while allowing possession of the devices. But those members opted to wait on implementing a policy until next year, after they heard more from the schools.

School administrators have strongly fought a change in the prohibition.

Dress code

Snyder also questioned why students who violate the dress code are sent to in-school suspension rather than sending them home to change or getting parents to bring in their clothing. Hickey said they were in suspension waiting for their parents to bring in appropriate clothing.

She suggested that the district could provide ugly canvas coverups for the students to wear so they wouldn't miss class. "That's not a bad idea," Fitzpatrick responded with a grin.

Board member Patience Nave added that she wanted to see teachers dress more appropriately as well to serve as role models for their students. That would be a negotiable item with the union, Fitzpatrick noted.

He added that the dress code issue rarely creates problems after the first few weeks of school.

Board members also expressed interest in increasing the high school graduation requirement for physical education from half a year to a longer period of time and establishing a policy for rental of school district facilities.

In their review, board members also found many unnecessary and poorly worded policies.One policy required employees who change their names to notify the district. Nave said that should be fairly obvious.

"If they want to get paid," Hickey said, "they'd better tell us what their name is."

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