School board discusses bullying issue
Among the various topics at Monday night's school board meeting were a bond issue, site councils, improving the board of education Web site and enrollment numbers, but it was the bullying discussion that received most attention.
Supt. James White started the bullying talk off by saying the board needs to create an anti-bullying policy that is district wide.
"It's one of those things that is big state wide and also in our district," White said. "I basically want us to say this is what will happen in our district as far as bullying."
Board Member Ande Parks also thought the topic was important and should be discussed by all schools.
"I think this issue is vital and I think it should encompass the entire district, including the staff and students," Parks said.
Baldwin High School Principal Allen Poplin and Assistant Principal Bret Jones took part in the bullying discussion. Poplin was asked how they define bullying and he wasn't exactly sure, but he said it all depends on the victim.
"It's sort of like sexual harassment, because it's how the person receiving it feels," Poplin said. "It's also how we react to it. I don't think intent has anything to do with it."
The board then looked at the section of the BHS handbook that addresses the different types of bullying.
Board Member Ruth Barkley said defining the various types of bullying is going to be difficult.
"I think no matter what policy we adopt, defining these types of bullying is going to be the hardest part," Barkley said. "If we have a zero tolerance policy, then we need to follow that."
After a little further discussion between the board and the BHS principals, the school board tabled the topic until the next meeting in October.
Parks said he would like the district to have a policy that helps avoid bullying, instead of just reacting until after an incident happens.
"I'm talking about a policy that will help with prevention, not one that just reacts," Park said.
After the meeting, Board Member Alison Bauer said the board and principals had a nice conversation.
"I think the board had a good discussion tonight about bullying," Bauer said. "I think that bullying will not be tolerated at USD 348. I think that we need to continue to educate the kids and the community, although I think we have been doing a pretty thorough job so far. Bullying will always be there, but it's our response is what we can change and do differently."
Before the bullying talk, the board slightly discussed several other topics, one of which was about using the site councils better.
Bauer told the board she would like to add the site councils into the monthly meetings by placing them on the agenda.
"They have been established and they do a great job in their sphere," Bauer said. "Part of their scope is to advise the school district of things that are going on. I would just like to make it easier for them to do that. I want to have another way for them to visit the board and share their thoughts with us."
That brought up a small conversation amongs board members. Parks said he would like to use the site councils more often and not just hear their reports each month.
Barkley said she doesn't want to force each site council to attend the meeting when there isn't news to report.
"I'm not against putting that on the agenda, but I hesitate to say they have to come each month and give a report," Barkley said. "It's like the coop report, if there's nothing to report, then there's nothing to report."
The board decided to place the site councils under the delegations section of the agenda. It also decided to assign each board member to a site council, so that member can attend the meetings and be a representative of the school board.
"We need to emphasize we are not a spokesperson for the board, but we are a liaison for the board," Board President Lonnie Broers said.
The next item for discussion was the board of education Web site, which was brought up by Board Member Bill Busby.
"I want to increase communication and make board meeting information more accessible to the community," Busby said. "Some people use the telephone, other people like to use the Web site. This is any easy thing to do, so that's why I brought it up."
The board added meeting locations, agendas, minutes, meeting guide and the district electoral map to the Web site.
"There are things that Baldwin doesn't have that other districts do have," Busby said. "We are going to put the electoral map on there if it isn't already, because it's not on the board of education site."
Before entering executive session, White briefly gave the preliminary enrollment numbers for the district. As of Monday, the district looks to be up 43 students from last year. The enrollment numbers won't be official until Sept. 20.
After the executive session, the board accepted the personnel report. It included the hiring of Veronica Abel as Baldwin Junior High School assistant volleyball coach. The resignations included Tammy Reineman, Marion Springs Elementary School kindergarten teacher and BJHS assistant volleyball coach, Shelly Ausherman, BHS attendance secretary, and Barbara Riley as a bus driver.
The next school board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at MSES.