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SNSD board talks preschool, district handbook changes

by Matt Hutcheson | July 23, 2021 at 11:30 a.m.
Smackover Elementary School is seen in this News-Times file photo.

The Smackover School District’s latest monthly board meeting was held on Monday, July 19, at their central office.

Following the election of new school board officers, school board members discussed terminology changes to each of the district schools’ handbooks.

First, however, SNSD business manager Lori Willis presented two insurance renewal requests to the board for consideration.

“This year’s renewal on the property insurance is $90,794.99, which is an increase of $4,300 over last year. This is the insurance we’ve had for years. It has a $1,000 deductible per incident,” Willis said.

The board approved the renewal unanimously and Willis next presented the vehicle insurance renewal proposal.

“The premium for next year is $18,926, which is a decrease of $599,” Willis said.

The auto insurance renewal was also approved. The district receives insurance through the Arkansas Insurance Department, Risk Management Division.

Handbook updates

SNSD special programs director Teri Philyaw informed board members of each of the handbook changes.

She first went over changes made to the preschool handbook that alter how class placement works for preschoolers.

“We added that when your child reaches the age when they age out of their room, they will be transferred to the next age category if there are slots available in that classroom. What this means is, if you’re in the toddler room and [the child] turns three, they are eligible to move up to the three-year-old [room] if slots are available. This will open slots in the toddler room, which has always been an issue since we have only 16 slots… It will help us be able to move kids and flow,” Philyaw said.

Board member Damon Goodwin asked for confirmation that if no slots are available, the child would not be able to move up, regardless of age, which is the case.

Philyaw also told board members that language canceling open house at the preschool due to COVID-19 has been removed from the handbook.

The preschool handbook changes were unanimously approved by the board.

Next, Philyaw presented changes made to the district handbook, including a rearranged section on absences.

“We always have a discussion about [unexcused absences and absences] every year, so we wanted to clarify that. It still remains ten unexcused absences in the course of a semester may not receive credit and when a student has five unexcused absences, their parents will be notified. If a student exceeds ten unexcused absences in the course of a semester, the district notifies the prosecuting attorney,” Philyaw said.

In the tobacco products prohibition section, Philyaw said the terminology “vaping” was added as clarification alongside e-cigars, e-pipes and other language denoting electronic cigarette devices.

In the middle school and high school dress code section, a section about jeans with holes was altered to match the elementary section on the same subject. The section now states “no student shall wear jeans or pants with holes that expose skin within six inches from the knee and up” for the elementary, middle and high schools.

An additional dress code section was also changed for all schools to state that “tights and leggings are permissible providing the shirt top or dress covers the buttocks,” according to Philyaw.

The electronic device guidance sections of the district handbook had age parameter changes, changing to kindergarten through fourth grade and fifth grade to twelfth grade.

“We made it relevant to where the campuses are,” Philyaw said.

Changes on a section outlining gradual punishments for cheating prompted some discussion.

“In the cheating section, ‘violators are subject to’ [section], there was a 1-2-3-4 list. We took out the list and just said zero on work, teacher contacts parent. It was redundant to have ‘zero on work - detention,’ ‘zero on work - in-school suspension.’ It was changed to just a zero, that’s enough if caught cheating,” Philyaw said.

A few board members wanted potential punishment for repeated instances of cheating beyond a zero on school work, however.

“It’s an administrative choice and decision on what would be worth, whether detention or out-of-school suspension. We just didn’t want it to say number two, automatic detention, because that may not make sense for a student depending on circumstances. But we can go back and look at it if you choose for us to do that,” Philyaw said.

Goodwin asked for clarification on possible escalating punishments for repeated cheating.

“As long as they know it’s not just continuously zeroes. It has to be something a bit more than that… They need to understand the [administrative choice] goes with that as well; in my eyes it’s too simple….Not only in high school but what if in college, they might keep going with it there if they don’t learn the lesson here,” Goodwin said.

Board member Cliff Preston agreed.

“I don’t think it would hurt to have one more line that says ‘we take cheating very seriously, and it can rise to whatever level,’” Preston said.

Philyaw agreed to add a line expressing that sentiment.

Lastly, Philyaw said a line was added to remove specific detention hall times and denote that administrators will set detention times to allow for more flexibility.

The district parent-student handbook changes were unanimously approved.

Next Philyaw asked for board approval of the federal assurances guidelines, which is a document assuring a district’s compliance with federal procedures and policies in order to receive federal funding. The federal assurances must be approved by the board, signed by the superintendent and returned.

This was also unanimously approved.

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