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School Board gives first reading to handbooks

MORRIS – The Morris Area School Board gave a first reading so several district handbooks at their meeting on Wednesday night in Cyrus.

While most of the handbooks remained nearly the same going into the 2014 – 2015 school year, there were some changes to both the Morris Area High School and Morris Area Elementary School Parent/Student Handbooks.

The following are some changes to the Morris Area High School Parent/Student Handbook:

  • There will be no wills or prophecies read at the prom banquet and speeches will be approved by the administration ahead of time. Exceptions will only be made in emergency or extenuating circumstances with approval of the administration.
  • In order to be eligible for class rank/GPA, students must earn a minimum of 50 percent of their credits from MAHS.
  • Students will not be allowed to wear tank tops or spaghetti straps that show undergarments. Skirts and shorts should be as close to fingertip length as possible.
  • College visits that are not prearranged will not be excused. Students who want to make more than two college visits need to get special permission from the high school office.
  • Cell phones will not be allowed during safety grills.

The parent/student and staff handbooks at Morris Area Elementary School includes the following changes:

  • First through sixth grade teachers should publish their gradebook weekly. Physical education and music faculty should publish grades every two weeks.
  • A parent or legal guardian may be asked to verify a student’s absence. Principal Ken Gagner noted that he plans to allow up to five absences to be verified by parents, but if there are more there will need to be a written verification for an absence to be excused.

The handbooks will go through two more readings before they are officially approved.

Board revises 2014 – 2015 calendar

The Morris Area School Board made some changes to the 2014 – 2015 school calendar after negotiations with the Morris Teachers’ Association required the district to reduce the number of student contact days by two.

To accomplish this, Superintendent Scott Monson proposed three changes to the calendar:

  • Add a teacher workshop on Monday, Aug. 18
  • Add an early dismissal for staff development on Friday, Sept. 19
  • Add a teacher workday on Monday, Nov. 3

Fall Parent Teacher conferences are scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 5 from 12 to 2 p.m., 3 to 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

In the spring, Parent Teacher conference will be held on Monday, Feb. 9 from 5 to 8 p.m. for elementary school parents and Thursday, March 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. for high school parents.

If the year proceeds without too many missed days for weather, the last day of school is scheduled for Monday, June 1. Weather make-up days, if necessary, are scheduled for Dec. 22, Jan. 2 and April 6.

Board approves extending probationary period for two MAES teachers

On Wednesday, the Morris Area School Board voted approved waiving the tenure contracts for kindergarten teacher Jessica Pope and sixth grade teacher Amanda Johnson.

Teachers hired with the district have a three year probationary period before they are offered tenure. Under the waiver, both teachers agreed to extend their probationary period into the 2014 – 2015 school year.

Nearly 30 teachers attended Wednesday’s meeting to share their displeasure with the contracts.

Sue Hauger, who spoke on behalf of the teachers in attendance, said, “our problem with it, frankly, has to do more with the way it was handled than the fact that it happened.”

Hauger argued that the teachers in question “were pretty much blindsided” with decision not to grant them a continuing contract and did not receive an indication during their evaluations that there was a problem.

“When [the teachers] asked the administrator delivering this news for a reason, they were simply vaguely told there were ‘some’ they could hear about ‘sometime in the future,’” said Hauger.

“Thoughtful, accurate evaluation is the primary job of an administrator – it’s one of the things that they’re supposed to do and we count on them to do it,” Hauger continued. “Evaluation should explicitly indicate what a teacher can do better and if we have teachers who are having difficulty, an administrator should be stepping in and helping that teacher improve. It shouldn’t be a surprise to a teacher that they’re struggling.”

Neither the district administration or members of the school board commented on the issue at the meeting before the board approved the waiver of tenure contracts for both teachers.

Other business

  • The board approved removing password protections for the public wi-fi in both the elementary and high school buildings beginning in July 2014. In a memo to the board, IT Director Stephen Lien noted that the public wi-fi would be “filtered, unsecure and should not be used for sending or receiving private date.”
  • The board changed the date of their next regular school board meeting to Monday, June 23 at 7 p.m. in room C100 at MAES.