School Board Strengthens Zoning Policy

TONY STINNETT, Courier Co-Editor

Cannon County students entering kindergarten for the first time in 2011-12 will have to attend their school of zone and no new out-of-zone transfers will be approved, following a unanimous vote of the Cannon County Board of Education Thursday (July 7).

The Board voted to approve the change to policy 6.206, regarding transfers.

Students who have a previously approved out-of-zone transfer will be allowed to attend the out-of-zone school provided the transfer does not cause overcrowding. Siblings of students with an approved out-of-zone transfer will be allowed to attend the out-of-zone school if the older sibling is still attending the out-of-zone school.

Out-of-county students requesting enrollment must be approved by the principal and the director of schools and will be allowed, provided the transfer does not cause overcrowding. These students will be charged an annual, non-refundable tuition. Parents must provide transportation to and from school.

The director's discretion will be used in placement of student(s). The deadline for requesting admission to Cannon County Schools is Sept. 1 of each school year.

Transfer students will meet the same enrollment requirements as new students. The student must exhibit good attendance and good conduct to attend any Cannon County School. All transfers will be reviewed annually. Children must live with their legal guardian in order to attend school in Cannon County. The Director of Schools must approve all transfers.

In other business, the Board also granted changes to the Cannon County High School Handbook.

Missing school without a valid excuse may result in additional punishment for Cannon County High School students beginning with the 2011-12 school year.

In an effort to address what Cannon County High School Principal Tim Knox called "a problem with unexcused absences," members of the Board of Education voted 4-1 to implement penalties for students in excess of 10 unexcused misses.

"Ten unexcused absences is still a lot," Knox told the Board. "We have had a problem the last few years with unexcused absences. This is not a problem unique to Cannon County, but we need to try to do something to improve it. We especially have had this problem with students who drive. They may show up one, two, or three hours late, come in whenever they want to and still be here long enough to make a day and, in some cases, pass. We are looking for a solution."

Students in addition of 10 unexcused absences who drive and have a parking permit may have their parking privileges removed or suspended until attendance improves. Students with excessive unexcused absences also will not be prom or senior trip eligible, may not attend field trips and will face suspension from extracurricular clubs such as Beta, FFA, HOSA and sports.

"The idea is to strip these students of their privileges with hopes that they will come to school and be there," Knox said. "We have spent some time addressing this at the school level with the hopes of reducing this trend. We are proposing to add some consequences for those students who have 10 or more unexcused absences to a class or classes in an attempt to encourage better attendance."

Knox said students with more than 10 unexcused absences can get back in good standing and regain their privileges and suspension from extra-curricular activities would be indefinite until attendance showed improvement.

"There will be some ways the student can get back in good standing with this attendance policy on the 10 unexcused days such as simply showing a good attendance record after their 10th unexcused day," Knox said. "In order to be eligible for Prom or Senior Trip, the student would need to make 10 straight days of school attendance to pay back one of their unexcused days."

This change will be reflected in the 2011-12 CCHS Student Handbook. Board Member Mike Mayfield cast the only no vote.

"Seems to me these students already are not attending if they have that many unexcused absences and now you are taking away most of the reasons they have for coming to school," Mayfield said. "I don't think this will work."

Knox said it was just one attempt at finding a workable solution to fix the problem.

"We don't know if it will work until we try," Knox said.

The Board also voted unanimously to approve changes to the Lion Academy Program.

Beginning in 2011-12, there will be different levels for offenders. Knox said in the past all students were sent to Lion Academy for a 45-day period, unless it was a zero tolerance offense.

Students sent to Lions Academy for behavioral problems will serve 45 days. Students who are sent to Lions Academy for a second time will serve 90 days and students with zero tolerance infractions are 180 days.

Board member Cathy Hyatt asked if second offenders are receiving outside help.

Knox said such resources were not available; however, he is working to come up with some creative ways to assist.