Meeker School Board seeking policy to address staff conduct

MEEKER | The Meeker Board of Education (BOE) is constantly reviewing policy. These policies are categorized by subject area and referenced by a series of alphabetical tags that aren’t even acronyms; they are just three to four or more letters, any group of which, with the same first letters, concern a specific policy area. This system of organization has been established by the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB).
School boards which are members of CASB can depend on CASB to keep and organize their policies whether they are exactly like the CASB recommendations or not. The Meeker BOE policies can be accessed on the Meeker School District website, or on the CASB site. CASB makes recommendations to member school boards for new policy, policy revisions, updates and repeals.
By way of example, policy tags that begin with B concern school board governance and operations. Tags that begin with E concern support services and policies beginning with EE cover transportation support services. G policies concern personnel. It was a G policy that led to an interesting debate among BOE members last week, specifically proposed policy GBEB-R concerning staff conduct not currently addressed by Meeker policy—this policy recommended by CASB would be in addition to existing policy on staff conduct.
First, however, the existing GBEB policy includes general rules of conduct and responsibilities also covered by established law and normal expectations, the issues of child abuse and unlawful behavior involving children, possession of deadly weapons, felonies and misdemeanor convictions and health care treatment for student behavior issues.
The new policy CASB would add staff conduct statements surrounding proper professional boundaries with students including inappropriate physical contact and harassment; the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco or being present where such use is occurring; student favoritism or friendships beyond “ordinary professional staff-student relationships”; extending any contact with students beyond normal school days and classes for the staff member’s personal purposes; visitation in either student or staff member homes without chaperones; and prohibiting communications of any kind that are not for an educational reason.
On the wings of CASB’s push, Superintendent Chris Selle took this proposed policy to the BOE on first reading at their August meeting. Subsequently, Selle reviewed the policy with the district’s employee council which asked Selle not to carry the proposal further on the basis that many of the behaviors targeted by the policy were illegal anyway; some of the rules were vulnerable to being misapplied in a very subjective fashion; and some just don’t seem fitting for a small town environment where students, teachers and families are constantly intermingling for other than “educational reasons.”
The employee council’s request caused Selle to recommend to the board last week that they not forward it to a third and final reading in October. The BOE though, primarily under the leadership of member Kevin Amack, concluded after some considerable discussion, that having some form of such a policy would be helpful, and that Selle should take it back to the employee council for further discussion as the board would be willing to delete some of the provisions and perhaps reword others. Selle was to have that discussion with the employee council yesterday.
Other policies addressed by the board Sept. 19 included approval on second reading of inter-district (out-of-district) choice and open enrollment to be finalized Oct. 17, and policies on suspension and expulsion of students, other disciplinary interventions and related hearing procedures on first reading. The first reading of the proposed repeal of a policy on drivers of private vehicles for school purposes was also advanced. A statement on student fees was sent back to administration for revision and later consideration.
Resignations accepted by the board were Gary Zellers as the high school drama sponsor and Mike Dinwiddie as middle school basketball coach. New hires approved were volunteer coaches Beth Bennett for cheer and John Strate for cross-country; Shana Holliday for drama sponsor; Samantha Lopez and Shanna Lewis as certified and classified substitutes; and Zach Kehrig as a student custodial substitute.
Selle updated the board on the consulting work being done to assess the schools’ facilities for their facilities master planning. Consultants will return to Meeker in October to give public presentations. After some discussion on the planning process and possible funding paths, the board decided that they should wait until the master plan work has been submitted by the consultant to talk further about the district’s options and possible plan.
In other action, the board approved the district emergency operations plan which can be accessed online and the 2017-2018 agreed upon goals for the superintendent. Selle also announced that Georgann Amack and Kathy deVergie had been re-elected chair and secretary, respectively, of the District Accountability Committee (DAC) on Sept. 19. There will be a combined DAC and BOE meeting on Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m., open to the public.