Revisions approved, drug testing plan ready
Board taken to task for school play
By Kathryn Purcell
Following a meeting last Monday open for public comment, the Morgan County Board of Education voted unanimously to approve revisions to the Random Drug Testing Policy set to begin at Morgan County High School this fall.
In discussing changes to the policy, Board member Bob Prior suggested that the $25 fee to parents for the second drug test, required if a student fails the first test, be passed to the school system should the family be unable to pay for the second test.
"Twenty-five dollars may be a lot for some families," Prior said.
Board members agreed, and, barring the approval of the Morgan County Sheriff's Office, who is picking up the tab for the testing through seized drug assets, the cost of the second drug test will be picked up by the school should the student be a part of the "Free and Reduced Lunch" program.
Members of the Board also brought up public comment they've heard regarding the idea that suspending students involved in Georgia High School Association extracurricular activities for 10 percent of games was too much, and the idea that parents may not wish to wait four weeks, as stated in the policy, between the first and second drug tests, as they feel the first test may not have been accurate.
"There will be an ongoing tweaking of it," Board Chairman Nelson Hale said. "But we have to start somewhere."
In his report, Superintendent Stan DeJarnett recognized a letter from resident James Nolan, which he reported expressed concern over the constitutionality of the random drug testing.
"His opposition is based on the Fourth Amendment," DeJarnett said. "I understand his concern, the basis of his complaint...It is our obligation to provide a safe environment for students."
"The point of this is awareness, education, intervention," Morgan County High School Principal Mark Wilson said.
In the Financial Report, DeJarnett again expressed concern about ELOST (Education Local Option Sales Tax) funds. The school system received an ELOST check of $285,992.84 this month.
"Our balance is a little over $2,000," DeJarnett said. "That's not enough to carry us through the end of the gym project at this level."
Currently, the school system has $2.2 million remaining to be paid on the gym project, according to DeJarnett.
The cause of the depleting funds includes the cost of repairing school roofs damaged in the March hailstorm, a total of $500,000, as well as decreasing receipts.
DeJarnett suggested pulling $2 million from reserves -- $1 million collected last year and $1 million collected by the end of this year -- to cover the roof repairs and the completion of the gym project, which is currently on schedule, Director of Operations Bob Monk reported.
Further, it will take between eight and 10 months to put that borrowed money back in reserves.
In regards to the School Nutrition balance, DeJarnett also reported that, due to Spring Break, the April deposit of $58,000, which comes from the state, was made after May 1, making the $31,000 in receipts well below what it should be.
"You'll see a much higher number in May," DeJarnett said.
Despite increasing energy and fuel costs, according to DeJarnett, the school system's expenditures are still under budget.
"But it's been very close," DeJarnett said.
In other news, Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT), taken by juniors, results came back, and Morgan County improved in several subject areas, based on last year's results.
In the area of Math, students meeting or exceeding standards increased eight percentage points; Science, seven percentage points; and Writing, three percentage points.
Scores fell eight percentage points in English/Language Arts, and three percentage points in Social Studies.
According to Assistant Superintendent Ralph Bennett, the GHSGT English/Language Arts, Science and Writing tests switched this year from being QCC (Quality Core Curriculum) based to being GPS (Georgia Performance Standards) based, a result of Georgia making an effort to keep up with the No Child Left Behind Act. The tests have, consequently, become more difficult.
Morgan County results were better than the state average in Math, but lower than the state in the other areas of English/Language Arts, Science, Social Studies and Writing.
The results of the fifth and eighth grade Writing Assessment are also back. Of the 247 fifth grade students tested, 183 students, or 74 percent, met or exceeded the standard.
Of the 279 eighth grade students tested, 207 students, or 74 percent, met or exceeded standards.
In hearing from Assistant Superintendent Sarah Burbach, the Board learned that there are currently 3,254 students enrolled in Morgan County schools.
The Board also heard from Morgan County CrossRoads School Principal Jannie Broadnax about the current year's progress, as well as the record number of students, 88 to be exact, that the school has served this year.
Also part of the meeting, the Board heard public comment from Bert Berding, who spoke to the Board about his concern about the quality of Morgan County High School Drama Department productions, specifically the most recent production of "Disco Inferno."
Berding never saw "Disco Inferno," he said, but spoke to many people who did, as well as seeing the pictures published in this newspaper.
Referencing the urinal scene in the production, Berding called the play "vulgar" and "highly offensive," before continuing to say that he'd spoken to several people who'd seen the play and told him they felt the same way.
"No one wants this crap," Berding said. "It's sick."
In taking action, Berding let the Board know that he sent petitions regarding the perceived vulgarity of these high school productions to eight community churches, and that he did have signatures from the majority of them.
"It is regrettable that Mr. Berding is basing his position on the most recent play on pictures published in the newspaper instead of on the play," DeJarnett said, reacting to Berding's comments in a later phone interview.
Hale told Berding that the matter would be taken into consideration by the Board.
"Certainly we don't want to portray, through the Drama Department, anything offensive to the community," Hale said.