School board discusses options to improve school security, fee waiver policy

Mary Ellen Crase, a parent of Canyon View High School student, addresses the Iron County School Board and district administrators about issues she has with the district's fee waiver policy she claims is out of compliance with state law, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 23, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY – Several Iron County schools need improvements to make them safer for students, and the school board wants them done sooner than later.

Iron County School Board Vice President Harold Haynie expressed his concerns regarding school security during a work meeting Tuesday, emphasizing that he felt the board needed to address the issues now.

“I just want to start this discussion,” Haynie said. “We have to make a plan for each of the individual schools in what we’re going to do about it (safety) because it’s not going to go away. We need to make a plan. I just wanted to introduce the fact that it’s time that we knuckle down and decide to make a list on what schools need it the most. Make a list and have a plan to make it happen because we’ve talked about it for at least two years in a serious tone.”

Superintendent Shannon Dulaney agreed, saying that she has felt for awhile that security is something the district must address immediately as “times have changed.” She said:

We’ve gone from no one should have a weapon in the schools to we hope that we have individuals who are carrying and have concealed weapon permits in case something happens action can be taken. We’ve gone from lock down in every case to knowing that’s not what we should be doing, that we should be responding differently, and there are times that we should be thinking about fighting back and getting the kids out of the building so they’re not in a place where they can be easy targets. So we need to improve that conversation and begin that education of our staff and our parents.

Dulaney continued to say no one wants to think something bad can happen where they live.

“We think it can’t happen to us, but it happened in Sandy Hook,” Dulaney said. “So it could happen. And as scary as that is and as much as we don’t want to think about it, we have to think about it.”

District Supervisor of Energy and Construction, Hunter Shaheen, weighed in on the discussion. Shaheen said his biggest concern is making sure the public cannot get into the school building without first checking in to the office.

“The issue becomes containment,” Shaheen said. “So when somebody comes in, they’re in.”

The board also discussed the possibility of a bond to cover the costs of improvements. A bond allows the district to finance a building project or other capital projects by increasing property taxes. To do so will require approval by voters.

“At the end of the day, if we have to go back to the constituents to fund it, then that’s what we need to do,” Haynie said. “But even if they (parents) have concerns about safety, it’s gonna take money in the schools to make it happen, and we just need to address it and go forward.”

District administrators and board members, however, both felt parents may support the measure since it involved the safety of their children.

School board member Becki Bronson said she’d like to see the improvements done all at once and as fast as possible. She asked for a report next month from district administrators.

The other board members agreed with Bronson and instructed district administrators to start the process immediately to create a committee that would include law enforcement representatives to look at what is needed to provide the most security for the schools.

Dulaney agreed to tour the school buildings with Shaheen in the next month and bring her findings back to the board for more discussion.

Changes to fee waiver policy

In other business, board members discussed changes to the district’s fee waiver policy proposed by Jennifer Wood, director of secondary education.

Mary Ellen Crase raised the issue of the district’s fee waiver policy during the 2015-16 school year after she said her child was singled out because she could not afford the supplies for the projects required in one of her classes at Canyon View High School. Her child, she said, was also excluded from a bowling activity with her fellow classmates because she couldn’t afford the $3 required to go.

Additionally, Crase said she personally was treated poorly by a school employee when she applied for the fee waiver for her student.

Crase maintained the district’s policy was out of compliance with state law and is required to provide supplies for a “meaningful project” in classes. Teachers also cannot ban students from class activities because of a financial hardship, she said.

Crase did not attend the work meeting where Wood introduced a draft proposal to the board that she had written following the Canyon and Jordan school districts’ policies verbatim. However, Crase told board members at their later meeting that she believes teachers are still finding ways around the law. She said the proposed policy change isn’t about telling the teachers what sorts of activities they can teach. She said:

I really just want to see the kids not singled out – at all. It’s not instructing the teacher what they need to teach. It’s making sure those teachers aren’t trying to dance around the issue and not trying to get around it and making sure that all the kids are treated equal and fairly and across the board. If 99 percent of the kids are doing that project than that one student is too.

Haynie pointed out to Crase that district administrators are working to meet state law requirements and that positive things have already come from her raising concerns.

“The good news is, you’ve done a great job bringing it to our attention,” Haynie said. “We appreciate your time and your effort in doing this, not only for your daughter but for all students in that situation. And we assure you, we are moving forward on it at the pace we can.”

State law mandates the district must cover school and classroom fees for students who can’t afford them. However, the legislature does not provide extra funding for the mandate, so each school is responsible to cover the costs of various activities and projects. They are also obligated to pay for books and lunches for students.

During the work meeting, Wood addressed this issue with the Board.

“I think what we need to keep in mind is if half the kids pay $15 and half the kids don’t pay $15, then what you really have is $7.50 to work with because those who pay are paying for those who can’t pay,” Wood said. “And we are not subsidized for that money. I just want you to keep that in mind as we’re going through this process.”

Last year, more than $30,000 was paid out in fee waivers at Cedar City High School alone, Wood added.

Changes to the policy requiring students to have alternatives in lieu of fee waivers, as per mandated by state law were addressed during the discussion.

“State law requires the school district to provide alternatives in lieu of fee waivers for students who are eligible for fee waivers (except for textbooks) to the fullest extent reasonably possible according to individual circumstances for both fee waiver applicant and school, consistent with local board policies and/or guidelines,” Wood said.

The Iron County School District has never gone in this direction until this year, Wood added, but this year Canyon View High and Middle Schools have both implemented community service in lieu of fee waivers.

Some board members were concerned community service itself would “single out students.”

Wood said, however, the law prevents the district from doing anything that would “draw attention” to the student.

Other board members supported the idea of requiring some kind of community service.

“I love the ‘in lieu of,’” Haynie said. “I think anytime we provide a handout without some sense of responsibility for it, we are doing damage.”

Canyon View Principal Rich Nielsen put some of the board members’ concerns to rest, sharing how he has already implemented the policy change in his school this year and said he has already seen positive results.

“It’s been a good process,” Nielsen said. “We are trying to be careful in making sure the student and the parent have options. We don’t want to say, ‘you are going to provide this community service,’ because in doing so you single somebody out. So there needs to be enough variety that as a home they can decide what is meaningful to their home.”

The board instructed Wood to bring a draft policy to the meeting next month where they will read it and give input on any suggested changes they feel need to be made at that time.

Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • Wolverine August 25, 2016 at 8:26 am

    While I like and agree with the idea of “Other board members supported the idea of requiring some kind of community service.” I think that calling it Community service makes it sound like a punishment, instead of a benefit. (It sounds like they’re being penalized and punished.) Why not call it “Work Study” and let all students participate to earn credit towards what a fee waiver covers? Put a cap number of $$ on it, but allow anyone that wants to earn those credits participate.

    This would eliminate any stigma associated with this scenario. It would be a way to save money for those that really need it, and the ones that can afford it, but may want to participate, can still do so, and decide to either use the credits for themselves or maybe donate them to a needy student fund, where funds can be drawn (limited quantity and frequency) for students that have not earned enough credits via this process.

  • RealMcCoy August 25, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Not to be rude (but many will still be offended and I don’t care because facts are facts), but if Mary Ellen Crase skipped a Big Mac or 2, she could afford the $3 for her kid to go bowling.
    Look, we aren’t talking about a starving family here. She obviously eats well enough, and dresses herself well enough, that we know she isn’t ‘broke’.
    That being said, I also don’t like how the schools waste a lot of money they do get, yet still feel the need to put extra ‘fees’ on parents to cover the extra activities teachers decide to do.
    Learn to work within your budget, like middle class America has to do.
    I agree with Wolverine’s idea about the Work Study program. Let students learn that their extra stuff costs money, and that money needs to be earned in some way, shape, or form.
    A group project or fundraiser never hurt anybody.
    What’s wrong with teaching kids a little accountability?

  • .... August 25, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Hey now just calm down McCoy ..how dare you suggest that someone teach a child to be responsible. your out of line and completely politically incorrect. that’s just plain rude. LOL !

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