Board discusses student drug testing policy, school safety
The second reading of a random drug testing policy for middle and high school students is scheduled next Monday, Feb. 26, and the Woodford County Board of Education briefly discussed the educational component of the proposed policy on Monday, Feb. 19. A district social worker will meet with students in the random testing pool to inform them about the policy, but more importantly educate them about the negative aspects of using illegal drugs, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins told board members. He said meetings will be held with the parents of students affected by the policy so they are also aware of the drug testing program. Jared Christian, the board’s student-representative, said students are now more informed about the drug testing policy, but they are also concerned that many students who use illegal drugs do not participate in athletics or on other competitive teams who make up the random testing pool. “Most were happy that something was going in place,” Christian told board members. Moreover, with some of the drug-related incidences at the high school, he said, “they were excited about this policy.” Hawkins said follow-up discussions are ongoing with the board’s attorney on the policy’s language to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of the consequences that students will face if they have a positive drug test. Also, he and Garet Wells, director of staff/student services, have met with three companies that provide random drug testing services to schools, and Hawkins invited board members to meet with representatives of those companies. “I’ve been impressed with the processes that they utilize,” said Hawkins. “…this is what they do…” He noted that a school employee will be present when a student is being randomly tested for drug use. With the recent mass shooting at a Florida high school that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers, board members asked Hawkins to give them a report at next week’s meeting on what the district does to ensure the safety of students in its schools. In a related matter, board member Margie Cleveland pointed out that walkouts are being planned by students across the country. Hawkins said district and school administrators have begun conversations about planned school walkouts. “That’s obviously about a bigger issue that is much more on the political side of things than we normally deal with within our schools. And I’m talking about the gun control debate,” said Hawkins. He described the planned school walkouts and other protests as being “much more centered on that debate.” However, he also acknowledged that “our kids do have a very important voice in this (gun control debate) and we certainly want to listen to them, but is there a better way to give them that voice. Can we do that by bringing in some of our local leaders and allowing (our students) to have those conversations with them.” He said it’s important to engage students in these conversations without disrupting what’s happening in school. In conversations with his peers about the planned walkouts, Christian told them the best course of action may be meeting with WCHS Principal Rob Akers before organizing a protest such as a walkout. “If there’s a way for us to work with Mr. Akers, I think that’s the best way to pursue this,” Christian said. A nationwide, 17-minute walkout by students and teachers is planned on March 14; and a day of walkouts, sit-ins and other events on school campuses is planned on April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Apprentice program Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm informed board members that in support of a workforce development need in the community, the school district has begun exploring Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK). “It is a nationally recognized apprentice program where you get students on-the-job training and they complete part of their apprentice hours while still in high school and they continue that apprenticeship when they leave,” Brehm explained. He said talks have begun with a local company, Quad Graphics, about starting an industrial manufacturing apprenticeship as a pilot program. “So we’re trying to work with Quad Graphics and their corporate office,” he explained, “to make it so that our co-op (education program) can lead to that apprentice program…” Also, Brehm presented the board with four summer reading program options to consider for elementary-age students. The estimated cost of the options will range from $89,600 to $182,100 depending on how many students are provided reading materials and twice or once weekly sessions. One weekly option includes science- and math-based sessions in the afternoon for all students, not just those targeted for extra literacy support. The district has also begun preliminary discussions about starting robotic teams in the elementary schools and has agreed to provide the Kentucky Science Center with space for a STEM summer camp at Simmons Elementary in June, said Brehm. The five-day Science, Technology, Engineering and Math camp will involve 60 students, kindergarten through fifth grade, in Woodford County schools, he added. “I like how you are bringing in some partnerships and thinking outside the box,” said board member Sherri Springate. “I think everybody realizes summer slide is a real thing. Kids, who do not have enrichment in the summer, come back … with a lot of regression over summer. So I really appreciate that you’ve given us all these options” to counter the summer slide. Financial report The district began January with a total cash balance of $16.27 million and ended the month with $15.733 million, according to Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith’s financial report. She said $325,139.38 was transferred to the debt service fund to make a bond payment in January.