School Board Upholds Disciplinary Authority Ruling
TONY STINNETT, Courier Co-Editor
Saturday, May 14, 2011 7:01 am
The Cannon County Board of Education upheld a ruling by the Disciplinary Hearing Authority regarding a student at Cannon County High School, with one amendment, during its May meeting at Cannon County High School Monday (May 9).
The Board voted, 4-1, to allow the student to attend 45 days of Lions Academy, beginning May 10; however, if he has one unexcused absence then his punishment reverts to the initial 180-day suspension originally administered by Cannon County Principal Tim Knox in February.
Shelly Napier, mother of the student, was asking that her son be suspended the remainder of this school year and start fresh with his 45-day responsibility to the Lion Academy at the start of the 2011-12 school year.
The student was given a 180-day suspension for a zero tolerance violation by Cannon County High School Principal Tim Knox earlier in the school year. Ms. Napier appealed the decision to the Disciplinary Hearing Authority (DHA), which reduced the student's punishment to 45 days in Lion Academy.
Napier said she initiated an appeal with the DHA following her son's 180-day suspension. She appeared before the DHA March 9 and was informed a letter would be forthcoming regarding the decision.
The letter was mailed March 14; however, Napier said she never received it. She also never called the Board of Education or CCHS to follow-up on the ruling. During this time, the student has not attended school or the Lion Academy.
"I misunderstood the proceedings I guess," Napier said. "I thought I had to get this set up, otherwise we would have taken the suspension to allow (my son) to get straight with everything before he came back to school."
Director of Schools Barbara Parker informed Napier the letter was sent March 14.
"The recommendation was made Monday, March 14 and the letter went out the same day, I don't know why you didn't get it," Parker said. "You contacted me and I told you that the letter had been mailed and that I didn't know what happened as to why you didn't get it, but that you would need to go before the Board because I had made my ruling.
"You were told the letter was forthcoming. I believe the responsibility is on the parent to make sure they are getting that letter or find out why they did not. If I have not received the letter within two-to-three days, I would be calling. I upheld the decision of the DHA and that is still my opinion."
Board chairman Randy Gannon asked Napier a series of question before moving forward in the discussion.
"Your son got in trouble (at CCHS) and was suspended by (Principal Tim) Knox for 180 days?," Gannon asked, to which Napier replied, "Yes."
"You appealed that decision to the (DHA) and received 45 days in the Lion Academy?," Gannon continued. "You initiated the hearing and now you want us to go back to the 180-day suspension, and it was a serious enough offense to get him 180 days."
At this point, Board member Mike Mayfield questioned why the student had not been in school at all during this time and why no one had done anything about it.
"I'm tired of people getting zero tolerance punishment and then receiving 15 minutes penalty because they go before this hearing committee," Mayfield said. "Zero tolerance is 180 days unless you are a resource student."
Any student suspended more than 10 days or sent to Lion Academy has a right to appeal the suspension to the DHA. Lion Academy is an alternative school located at Cannon County High School and is under the direction of a certified teacher.
The CCHS handbook reads: "Lion Academy is a privilege, not a right. Students who refuse to participate in their program may receive a long-term suspension out of school."
"Everybody has an opportunity to appeal to the DHA," Parker said. "The purpose of the DHA is for students and parents to have an option of appeal."
Barbara Corry, supervisor of attendance for Cannon County Schools, said one of the goals is to "guard the graduation rate."
"(The student) is going to be 18 next year," Corry said. "If he takes the GED that counts against the graduation rate."
Mayfield considered the punishment lenient.
"We are here to educate every child and we want to help them do that," Board member Shannon Davenport said. "That's my goal."
"Why did he never show up to attend the Lion Academy?," Mayfield questioned. "He never showed up. It looks like he's wrong on both accounts."
Napier told the Board her son had not attended school because of "court dates" and "visits to the lawyer." The Board informed her those absences would have been excused.
Knox informed the Board that the student would have completed his obligation to Lion Academy the week of May 16 had he started attending when he was supposed to.
Board member Chris Blackburn said he preferred students not be able to appeal "zero tolerance" offenses.
Gannon's initial motion to uphold the DHA's decision and have the student in Lion Academy the following day (May 10) failed by a 3-2 vote with Blackburn, Davenport and Cathy Hyatt voting against.
Mayfield entered a motion that the penalty of the initial 180-day suspension be restored. The motion failed for lack of a second.
Hyatt then asked Knox to offer his recommendation.
"I think he should be in school tomorrow (May 10)," Knox said. "He should have been in school in Feburary."
"He laid out all of that time and he is getting rewarded," Mayfield said.
Blackburn then entered a motion to uphold the decision of the DHA (45 days in Lion Academy) but if the student has one unexcused absence during this time then the punishment would revert to the 180-day suspension originally given.
"I want to give the boy an opportunity to prove he wants to take this second chance and make good with it," Blackburn said.
Gannon seconded the motion, which passed 4-1 with Mayfield voting no.
"It looks like we are rewarding someone who is intelligent and gets in trouble," Mayfield said. "If this kid was average then no one would give a crap."
Parker informed Mayfield, the Board and those in attendance that "all students have the same opportunities at all levels."
In other business, the Board unanimously approved Parker's recommendation of tenure for eight teachers and administrators in the Cannon County Schools System. When a teacher is granted tenure in a school district, usually after a certain number of probationary years of teaching, he/she cannot be dismissed from that district without due process, and can only be dismissed based on specific causes, usually outlined in state statutes.
Those receiving tenure were Tiffany Gannon, Lisa Junger and Lou Nave, Woodbury Grammar; Edward Coates, Marcus Larson, Kim Nichols and Matt Cagle; CCHS; and Robert Sain, West Side Elementary.
The Board also granted Auburn Principal Melinda Crook permission to apply for a grant under the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP). This program is authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education act and is intended to assist local education agencies expand or enhance their physical education and nutrition education programs.
"By applying for this grant, I hope to enhance Auburn School's Physical Education program, which is now a part-time program, to a full-time program which includes Health Education," Crook said.
Crook said the program is a three-year project. She indicated she will apply for $150,000 the first year and $50,000 for each of the second and third years. The grant would be used to make a Health and Physical Education position full-time instead of part-time, for at least the next three years.
The Board also unanimously approved donating a retired special education bus to the Cannon County Sheriff's Department.
Parker said she was approached by the Sheriff's Department in April about the possibility.
"I was approached by the Sheriff's Department about any retired buses we have," Parker said. "They need help transporting prisoners to court and it is taking a lot of manpower and vehicles making several runs a day. This will allow them to take more passengers. They know they have to paint the bus and take Cannon County Schools off of it."
The Sheriff's Department will be gaining a surplus bus that was driven for several years prior to a new bus being purchased this year.
"The option is to keep the bus and have a public auction or we can donate it to the Sheriff's Department, and that's a viable option," Parker told the Board.
The Board also gave CCHS Head Football Coach Joel Schrenk the go-ahead to begin construction of a new practice football field that will be located between the current field house and Houston Hills Lane. It will be 50-to-80 yards in length and will help improve the game field by keeping teams from practicing on it year-round.
Schrenk told the Board the practice field will be available for all sports and band that wish to use it at CCHS; however, there must be coordination.
Schrenk told the Board he would be willing to coordinate the schedule. The vote was unanimous; however, Schrenk was asked to come back with a proposal of how the coordinating policy will be handled.
The Board also approved the Carl Perkins plan for 2011-12.
The next Board Meeting Workshop will be at the Central Office June 7 at 6 p.m. The next regular Board Meeting will be June 9 at 6 p.m. at the Cannon County Courthouse.