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New school policies adopted

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By Cindy Simpson

Attendance can no longer play a role in a student’s grades, passing of a course or promotion or retention.

This is just one of several policy changes approved on first reading at the December meeting of the Roane County Board of Education.

And effective beginning the spring semester, student TCAP scores for grades three through eight shall comprise 15 percent of students’ final grades in math, reading/language arts, science and social studies.

Graduation requirements were also updated to include requirements for students entering the ninth grade during the 2009-10 school year forward.

Before graduation, every student must complete specified units of credit, take required end-of-course exams, have satisfactory records of attendance and conduct and take a series of three exams administered at eighth, 10th and 11th grades.

Sex offenders and school

Sex offenders with students in Roane County Schools now must provide written notice of their status to the principal and provide a written request to enter school property to participate in their child’s education, including parent/teacher conferences.

“These changes primarily have to do with changes in law, regulations or recommendations from Tennessee Schools Board Association, but primarily they are changes in the law. A lot of them have to do with Race to the Top that all board and systems are going through in today’s world,” said board member Wade McCullough.

Graduation

To graduate, students who enter ninth grade in 2009-10 or later must also have taken at least the following math courses: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II (or equivalents) plus one additional math course beyond Algebra I.

All students will be enrolled in a math class each year.

Students with certain disabilities who meet requirements may also be awarded  a transition certificate. These student can continue to work toward a diploma through the end of the school year in which they turn 22.

An Individualized Education Program certificate will be awarded to students with disabilities who complete the program, complete a portfolio and have satisfactory attendance and conduct.

More on sex offenders

Deleted from the portion regarding sex offenders is the language that principals could modify the “Presence on Property” section of the policy to allow registered sex-offender parents to drop off and pickup their children and come on campus for parent/teacher conferences.

In the policy, parents are still allowed to request the waiving of the restrictions of this policy to “allow the parent to attend school events under exceptional situations, including, but not necessarily limited to graduation.”

Student Alcohol and Drug Testing

The policy on when a principal is authorized to order drug or alcohol testing is updated from “reasonable cause” to “suspicion.”

Also added is that the student be given reasonable time to produce a urine specimen, limited to two hours.

The student may be given up to 16 ounces of water.

If the student fails to provide a specimen they may be escorted to the juvenile court office, local hospital or board-approved test facility to get another method of testing.

Tenure

New language in the tenure policy was added, with the inclusion of the documentation of a record of excellence in teaching.

That documentation includes “consistently high ratings on evaluations conducted by the principal and/or other evaluators.”

Other documentation includes effectiveness of teaching students, including test scores and the annual estimate of teacher effect on student pro-gress, record of attendance for the last three years, letter from the principal summarizing why the teacher should receive tenure and other indicators of effectiveness.

Tenured teacher
dismissal

Under the separation practices for tenured teachers, the board now must maintain a list of qualified individuals to act as impartial hearing officers under state law.

Following a section on the time alloted to a tenured teacher to file a notice for a hearing after receiving their notice of charges, the original description of the hearing to take place has been omitted and replaced.

Instead, the director shall assign a hearing officer, who will notify all parties to appear to schedule the hearing.

Either party can appeal a hearing to the Board of Education, according to the new regulations.

Leave for professional personnel

Active military duty or an impending call or order to active duty for a spouse, child or parent is now added to the list of reasons an employee can be granted up to 12 weeks unpaid leave.

Qualifying exigencies that allow for the leave under that addition include issues arising from a short-notice deployment, military events, making or updating financial and legal arrangements, counseling, up to five days leave to spend time with a covered military member on short-term temporary, rest and recuperation leave during deployment, and certain post-deployment activities.

Also added was a section for a military caregiver leave, allowing an employee up to a total of 26 workweeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period to care for a seriously injured or ill service member who is either a spouse, child, parent or next of kin.

Spouses employed by the same employer only have a combined 26 work weeks in a single 12-month period “if the leave is to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness, and for the birth and care of a newborn child, for placement of a child for adoption or foster care, or to care for a parent who has a serious health condition.”

Student suspension,
expulsions and
zero tolerance

The director of schools is the final line of appeal for discipline situations involving zero tolerance offenses under the new policy.

Otherwise, the original policy allowing for appeal to a disciplinary hearing, followed by the director of schools and finally the Board of Education, remains intact.

Student Disciplinary Hearing Authority

The addition is a note: “Zero-tolerance offenses set forth in statute (firearms, drug possession and battery upon a school employee) require mandatory calendar-year expulsion or assignment to alternative placement for a calendar year unless modified by the director.”

Zero-tolerance appeals end with the director.

Other policies

Under the updated policy, Roane County Schools will follow the guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in regard to head lice.

Also, no child will be excluded from school “for an undue period solely due to an infestation of head lice.”

The changes in policy also address psychological services, with “no school personnel shall conduct any mental health screenings, except as provided by law.”

“Students receiving special education services shall not be restrained, except as permitted by law,” according to an addition to the policy on Special Education Students.

Special recognition of students graduating with distinction is now part of policy on graduation activities.

Also added: the director will notify the board of out-of-date or inapplicable policies.