Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

June 20, 2014

No changes recommended for graduation policy

CROSSVILLE — The policy committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education has recommended no changes to the graduation activities policy.

Director of Schools Donald Andrews said, "We think it sends clearly the wrong message, especially for those who committed to doing their work. To me, this is another means of our society just letting people slide by. I think walking across that stage for high school is still an honor and a privilege."

Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, had asked the committee to review the policy and consider adding allowing high school student who are within two or fewer credits of completing a high school graduation requirements be allowed to participate in high school graduation activities with their class. Once those credits are completed, either through summer school or credit recovery, the students would receive their diplomas. State law does allow for the practice.

Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, said he had talked to someone who had personally experienced falling just a credit shy of graduating with his class.

"He just dropped out the next day and went and got his GED to keep from having to go back to school," Janeway said.

Interim Cumberland County High School Principal Jon Hall said, "Walking across that stage is a motivation for a lot of kids. If they know they're going to get to do it anyway, even if they don't finish, they may not go back and finish."

Hall said there were students who would have fallen into this category this past spring. They are currently in summer school completing their requirements for high school graduation.

Andrews suggested holding a small graduation ceremony at the end of summer for those students who complete their requirements so that they may have the honor of wearing the cap and gown and walking across the stage with their family members present.

Hall said he had already proposed such a thing for his students.

"I told those parents when they finish summer school, I'll put on my cap and gown on and they can put their cap and gown on and we'll do the whole thing," he said.

Janet Graham, interim supervisor of K-12 curriculum, said, "There is ample opportunity to get those credits. If graduation is the carrot is to walk across the stage and they want it, it is within the reach of any child who makes the effort."

Students need 27 credits to graduate, with opportunity to earn 32 over four years. The school system also offers credit recovery, summer school and the Phoenix School to help students complete credit requirements.

The committee suggested procedures for honoring those students who do earn their required credits be developed, but a change to the policy was not recommended.

The committee also discussed proposed changes to the student wellness policy to address issues of food allergies and homemade snacks for the class being sent to school. A number of possible changes were discussed, but also the possible ramifications of those changes on curriculum-related activities.

At first, it was recommended only pre-packaged, commercially produced products that included a food ingredient label could be brought for celebrations, while students could bring snacks from home for their own consumption. There was concern about how this could affect projects, such as cultural food days in foreign language classes or younger grades making applesause after finishing a unit on apples.

Tammy Stewart, supervisor of coordinated school health, suggested developing comprehensive county-wide procedures regarding food allergies, including alerts and precautionary measures, so that there is consistency throughout the school system, but not seek a change to policy.

"My number one concern is the health and safety of our students. We have epi pens in each school and the nurses are trained on using them. There are action plans, but I'm not sure those are consistent across the county," Steward said. "I think a comprehensive action plan can address this and be proactive."

Josh Stone, 4th District representative, said, "If you see that it is not working, bring it back to us."

The committee also tabled the following policies to allow for time to research legal references and consult with Tennessee School Boards Association and the Cumberland County Education Association:

•Policy 4.401, Textbook Selection, Distribution and Care;

•Policy 4.700, Testing Programs;

•Policy 5.200, Separation Practices for Tenured Teachers;

•Policy 5.201, Separation Practices for Non-Tenured Teachers;

•Policy 6.317 Student Disciplinary Hearing Authority;

•6.4001, Survey Students, Analyses and Evaluations; and

•Policy 6.600, Student Records.

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