By Heather Mullinix
A routine matter of business launched an in-depth discussion of school board policy and led to the matter being tabled by the Cumberland County Board of Education Thursday.
Director of Schools Donald Andrews had recommended individuals to serve as the Discipline Hearing Authority for the 2013-'14 school year; however, the number of individuals exceeded the number allowed in the board's policy.
The Disciplinary Hearing Authority conducts hearings for students who appeal a suspension. The DHA may affirm the decision of the school principal, remove the suspension or expulsion, provide terms and conditions on a suspension or expulsion, remand the student to alternative placement or suspend, expel or remand the student for a specified time period. Decisions of the DHA may be appealed to the director of schools.
The recommendations included Tim Claflin, school safety coordinator; Bruce Simmons, supervisor of curriculum; Wendell Wilson, supervisor of Career and Technical Education; and Keena Inman, special education supervisor; and principals of each elementary school and high school. The principals were recommended to serve on a rotating basis, with the committee never to exceed more than five voting members per session. That meant there were 16 people recommended to the committee.
Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, said policy 6.317 states, "The Board shall appoint members of the DHA which shall consist of five members (maximum number must not exceed total membership of Board) at least three of which shall e licensed employees of the Board, appointed to one-year terms and subject to reappointment. Board members shall not serve on the DHA." He questioned the recommendation to appoint 16 to a pool.
"My personal opinion is it does not meet policy," he said.
He also questioned including principals in the DHA, and noted the policy allowed for non-school employees to serve on the committee. He said doing so could increase transparency and improve public perception of the process.
"We can have people who are looking at it from a different angle," Janeway said.
Last year, the committee included Paul Hodge, who has retired; Simmons; Claflin; Lisa Phillips, family resource coordiantor; and Eddie Nunley, principal of the Phoenix School.
Andrews said Claflin would act as the chairman of the committee and only one principal served at a time, and not the principal with a vested interest in the outcome.
Claflin explained the principal of a school has already made a decision to suspend a student when the matter is appealed to the DHA.
"Most of the DHA appeals have come from the principals," Claflin said. "That's why we want them to sit on the board, so they can see what other schools are dealing with and see it from both sides. I feel it's running smoother and better with the set up we have right now."
The DHA has heard 13 appeals this school year. Claflin said that was on pace to the number of hearings in the past few years, though down from a few years prior to that.
Gordon Davis, 5th District representative, said the board either needed to go by its policy or change the policy.
Schlafer suggested Andrews pare the list down to nine names and return to the board for approval.
"But I can't feel it's in the best interest to not follow the policy we have adopted," he said.
David Bowman, 7th District representative, said it was a matter of interpretation of the policy.
Andrews said he would return with a list of nine names at a future meeting.
Bowman, who had moved to approve the DHA appointments, removed his motion and moved to table the issue. The motion then passed, with Bowman voting no.
In other business, Simmons and Rebecca Wood, assistant director of curriculum, instruction and accountability, were appointed testing coordinators for the county.
The board also unanimously approved second reading of the civility policy. The naming of facilities policy was approved on second reading, with Bowman, 5th District Representative Gordon Davis; and 8th District Representative Jim Blalock voting against.
The board also approved appointing Janeway, 3rd District Representative Sandra Brewer and 4th District Representative Josh Stone to the policy committee.