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NH continues review of online, weighted classes

NH continues review of online, weighted classes
NH continues review of online, weighted classes
North Harrison High School Principal Matt Kellems talks about weighted and online classes during Thursday night's meeting of the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees. Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor

Following up on last month’s board meeting of the North Harrison Community School Corp. that had students and parents wanting answers about policies regarding online Credit Recovery/PLATO courses, Marcus Burgher IV, the corporation’s legal counsel, said he looked into the matter.
Besides online coursework, he also made comments about student drug testing protocol and the student handbook and course description guide, adding this was ‘a big concern for people’ at last month’s meeting.
With regard to the student handbook, Burgher said under a previous principal, Kelly Simpson, recommended changes were brought before the school board.
‘That hasn’t been done’ since Simpson left at the end of the 2011-12 school year, Burgher said
He added that school counselors, who ‘feel very adamant that students should be in class learning from a teacher’ rather than completing coursework online, ‘cut and paste’ information for the course description guide.
Along with Burgher’s comments, North Harrison High School Principal Matt Kellems told the board how he formed a committee to look into matters in hopes of moving forward with a fair policy. The committee consists of 13 students, most of whom are Student Council representatives and class officers, and 14 adults representing the various educational departments and the PTO.
‘I tried to listen to everybody,’ he said.
Asked why no seniors were invited to serve on the committee, Kellems said, ‘I was focusing on the future.’
One senior, Jason Schmidt, voiced his opinion that the soon-to-be graduates should have been included.
‘I think we seniors offer a unique perspective,’ he said.
Burgher reminded those at the meeting that nothing for action was being presented to the board that night and there would be further discussion.
Dr. Lance Richards, the corporation’s superintendent, added that Schmidt and others could still give their input.
Kellems talked about some of the committee’s recommendations, such as to offer weighted classes only to juniors and seniors and to eliminate having a valedictorian and salutatorian, opting instead to use the Latin system (summa cum laude, etc.) based on students’ grade-point average.
‘By chopping (the number of) weighted classes in half, students could take more electives,’ Kellems said.
When asked who then would give speeches at graduation given in the past by the top two students, Kellems said those top students interested in giving a commencement address would submit their speech and the two deemed the best would deliver them at graduation.
The principal also talked about the possibility of adding a North Harrison distinction cord.
About clarifications to the handbook, he said, ‘I’ll be the first to admit it’s not widely known what’s available for online courses. I do agree we need to put that in there.’
Kellems is scheduled to make a presentation at the June school board meeting about the PLATO online courses.
Burgher, who said he spent the past two weeks conducting interviews about online and weighted classes, anticipates it could be 30 to 60 additional days before he completes his research.
‘To this point, I have not come to a complete decision,’ he said.
Veronica Battista, board president, defended the guidance counselors.
‘Let’s be clear,’ she said. ‘Our guidance counselors were given no guidelines … or good direction or policy to follow’ regarding online courses.
‘Who do the counselors answer to?’ asked Lynn Whittaker.
‘This obligation goes all the way up the ladder,’ Richards responded.
Kellems later added that he didn’t want anyone to leave the meeting ‘mad’ at the counselors.
‘The buildings wouldn’t run without them,’ he said.
Regarding the school corporation’s drug-testing policy, Burgher explained how money from the athletic department funds the testing, which is done by Midwest Toxicology Services on four random dates throughout the school year. Twenty individuals and four alternates, all identified only as a number, are randomly selected each test day from a list of student drivers and athletes who have signed a waiver.
The tests are sent off to a facility and then results are returned in one of two envelopes: negative or positive.
‘Mr. Kellems is only advised of those who failed the test,’ Burgher said.
They then look to see if there’s a valid reason, such as a prescribed medication, for a failed test, he added.
In the past two years that assistant principal Daniel Waynescott has been responsible for overseeing the drug testing, 160 tests have been administered with 17 failures, four of which were due to prescriptions, Burgher said.
A failed drug test results in a meeting with the student, making contact with the parents and a penalty issued.
Burgher said there would be no changes to the policy at this time and no further information would be made available to the school board following the meeting.
Richards said the administrators and board recognize there are ‘shortcomings,’ which they are trying to fix and ‘want to do what’s best for the kids.’
In personnel matters, the board accepted the resignation of teacher Kelly Churchill, who is retiring; Kevin Jones as the fall and spring athletic event supervisor; Dusty Rhodes as high school wrestling coach; and Christina Knight as a middle school instructional assistant.
Appointments approved were for Lorna Wenning as Student Council sponsor at Morgan Elementary; Travis Beals as high school assistant girls’ track coach; Bart Bigham as boys’ JV basketball coach; Greg Walters as boys’ varsity assistant basketball coach; Ryan Miller as boys’ varsity volunteer assistant basketball coach; Martha Tillquist as high school German and computer science teacher; and Kristen Mertz as high school co-cheer coach and co-summer cheer camp.
Numerous appointments, including four for driver’s education, were approved for summer school and summer sports. Richards said driver’s ed could soon be a thing of the past, as the school corporation is having trouble leasing cars for the program.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 13, at 7 p.m. at the middle school.

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