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BOE discuss possible cell phone use among students

Nathan Jeffersnjeffers@heartlandpublications.com

October 10, 2012

POINT PLEASANT — On Tuesday evening, members of the Mason County Board of Education further discussed the possibility of allowing 9-12 grade students at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School (PPJSHS) to use their cell phones more during the school day.


This topic is a continuing discussion from a previous meeting where the board discussed a request from the PPJSHS Leadership Team to be exempt from policy number 5136, Wireless Communication Devices. PPJSHS Principal William Cottrill spoke to the board on how this request came about, stating the leadership team felt the school should be more appealing to the students and should “get rid of the prison-like atmosphere” where the students are constantly told what they can’t do. Cottrill continued, saying through this requested exemption from the policy, 9-12 grade students would be allowed to use their cell phones between classes, as well as during class as an instructional tool.


Cottrill said currently if students use their cell phones at an inappropriate time the phone is confiscated and kept until the end of the day, and for a second offense, the phone is confiscated and kept for around 10 ten days. Cottrill added that if the students are permitted to use their phones more during the day and they are used inappropriately, the punishment will skip to the second offense level.


Cottrill also stated he has made it clear with the students that if the change is permitted and it later becomes an issue, the change will be revoked. Also if the exemption is approved, several board members were interested in seeing data of some kind showing whether the students have been using their phones inappropriately and that the change in fact has benefited the students. As of yet, the board did not vote to approve the policy exemption.


Also speaking to the board was Barbara Scarberry, who discussed the Work Based Learning Program in Mason County Schools. Scarberry noted the differences between the Work Based Learning Program and the Career Work Skills Program, stating the Career Work Skills program allows a student to take classes or work and gain experience in an area that is normally not offered at the Mason County Career Center. Scarberry stated there are currently 16 students involved in this program, two from Hannan High School, two from Wahama High School, and 12 from Point Pleasant. Scarberry continued, stating the Work Based Learning Program allows students to attend classes at school in the morning and then travel and go to work in the afternoon. Scarberry added that local businesses are very supportive of this program, which currently has 45 students, three from Hannan, 12 from Wahama, and 30 from Point Pleasant.


Also speaking to the board was Marty Reed, who discussed the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) supporting the upcoming excess levy for Mason County Schools. Reed mentioned several items and programs that will not be funded if the levy is not passed, including several sports programs and other activities, as well school computers and other supplies. Reed also stated that without the levy, Mason County Schools will also not be able to donate to various other organizations, such as the Mason County Library and the Point Pleasant River Museum. Reed also mentioned some other personnel benefits that would not be received if the levy was not passed, but was adamant that the levy is first and foremost about the students.


Also discussed at the meeting was a clarification regarding previous reports on the security of the high school parking lots during football games. Board member Greg Fowler referenced a situation where several vehicles were broken into, which was reported on in an earlier edition, and stated the West Virginia State Police Department was also involved in investigating the break-ins and is also working with the Sheriff’s Department to prevent further break-ins during football games.


In addition to Superintendent Suzanne Dickens, board members present were Thomas Nunnery, Randy Searls, Greg Fowler, Paul Sayre, Dale Shobe.


The Mason County Board of Education will meet again for a policy/regular business meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at Ashton Elementary School. The board will also meet at 6 p.m. for a Regular Business meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at New Haven Elementary School.


(Note: The approved agenda and personnel items from this meeting will appear in a later edition of The Point Pleasant Register.)