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Rules OK’d for 8th-graders in high school athletics, band

Friday, October 5, 2012

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County Schools’ guidelines for eighth-graders’ participation in junior varsity athletics and high school marching band have been finalized and communicated to secondary school principals.

They also were presented to the Henry County School Board at its monthly meeting Thursday.

As discussed at a previous school board meeting, Dr. Jared Cotton, county schools superintendent, met with secondary principals and band directors to discuss the possibility of a limited number of qualified eighth-graders to participate in high school band. It was determined that the process used for athletics did not apply to band participation, so a revised form was developed.

Under the new guidelines, all eighth-graders will be eligible to try out for junior varsity athletic teams and other activities that are available to ninth-graders, including marching band.

No qualified high school student will be cut from the marching band or athletic teams to create openings for equally qualified eighth-graders. All eighth-graders who are eligible and receive a spot with the marching band or athletic team must adhere to the same guidelines and expectations as the participating high school students. Special placement students must participate in extracurricular opportunities at the school in the zone where they live.

If there are a sufficient number of qualified and eligible ninth- and tenth-grade students to field a junior varsity team or group, no tryouts will be held for eighth-graders, the guidelines state.

The adjustments for junior varsity participation will be monitored throughout this school year, and if changes need to be made, they will be communicated to the school board in June 2013. The band participation will be implemented next school year, Cotton said.

Having eighth-graders participating in band is “a very positive opportunity and positive experience” for students, Cotton said. Not only does it allow students to excel musically, but when the students return to their middle school bands, it could enhance the middle school band’s performance, he added.

There will be no conflict in participating in both the high school and middle school bands since most high school band practices are after school, and middle school band is taught during the day.

“What a great thing to get students to participate in more extracurricular activities because it gets kids more involved in school and keeps them busy,” Cotton said.

In other matters Thursday, the school board:

• Learned of the new adjustments to the exam exemption guidelines.

At the request of high school principals, an adjustment has been made to the guidelines related to exam exemptions. The new guidelines include student performance on the corresponding SOL assessment or industry certification if applicable. A parent permission form also has been added to the process.

For a student to be exempt from an exam, he/she must have passed the SOL or an industry certification, maintained a B average or higher, had no more than three unexcused/verified absences and returned the exam exemption permission form, which must be signed by the student and the parent.

A student may elect to take the final exam to improve his or her grade, and all dual enrollment courses require an exam.

The new guidelines were made to emphasize the importance of the final exam because to his knowledge, more students were being exempt than were taking the exam, Cotton said.

• Francis Zehr, Ridgeway District board member, recognized Oct. 22-26 as School Bus Safety Week.

• Received awards and pins for their participation in the Virginia School Boards Association Academy.

Each local school board is required to participate annually in professional development activities at the state, local, or national levels on governance, including personnel, policies and practices, curriculum and instruction; use of data in planning and decision making; and current issues in education.

• Heard from DeWitt House, assistant superintendent for instruction, about SOL scores. House reviewed last year’s scores and outlined action steps to improve scores.

Those steps include aligning the county’s strategic plan with the school improvement plan, individual principal and teacher goals; relevance and real-world applications in the curriculum; developing assessment practices such as more free response questions on tests instead of all multiple-choice questions; teacher collaboration meetings; content assistance for special education teachers; and continuing the Read 180 program in all county schools to help struggling readers.

• Heard a presentation from Brian Pace, director of the Piedmont Governor’s School. He discussed the mission of the governor’s school and how it allows students to think critically through various projects and activities, including the FIRST robotics team.

• Approved the consent agenda, including the minutes of the Sept. 6 regular school board meeting and bills for payment.

• Also in the consent agenda, approved the $16,755 renewal of the Knowledgebox subscription from Pearson Digital Learning. KnowledgeBox supports a range of teaching and learning styles in the classroom from direct instruction to small-group activities and independent work. The system has been used in the division since March 2006.

• Renewed PowerSchool hosting services from NCS Pearson at a cost of $21,700 for one year.

The school board approved the purchase of PowerSchool for the student database management system in July 2008. An annual hosting cost is associated with the purchase, which covers hosting and warehousing information and all updates supplied to the program.

• Approved all overnight and out-of-state field trips.

• Approved the recommendations for Sick Leave Bank Advisory Board members.

In June 2004, the school board approved the establishment of a sick leave bank for full-time licensed employees and a seven-member Sick Leave Bank Advisory Board.

The Advisory Board will make recommendations on the levels of the bank and approve requests for the use of the bank. The members will serve two-year terms.

The seven people named to the board for school years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 were Bill Bullins, central office; Genell Brown, elementary teacher; Melissa F. Pace, middle school teacher; Wendy C. Durham, elementary principal; Gracie Agnew, secondary principal; Linda R. Dorr, superintendent’s designee; and Denise Fultz, Henry County Education Association representative.

• Approved setting $282.62 as the support group portion of the audit fee.

As required in Policy DI-R Fiscal Management-Annual Audit, the support group portion of the audit fee will be set by the school board on an annual basis. Any group charged extra by the school system’s accounting firm, Creedle, Jones & Alga, P.C., due to the condition of the records submitted for audit, will be required to pay that portion of the fee that exceeds the normal charge.

The original RFP for these services estimated that support group fees for the audit would be approximately $252.38. However, due to the condition of the books turned in by some support groups for the audit, it has taken the auditors longer to perform the audit, and the fee has risen.

For fiscal-year 2012 the normal audit fee for support groups was $535 per group. Six groups were charged an additional $125-$175. In fiscal-year 2011 support groups were asked to pay $282.62 of the fee and the school system paid $252.38. Two groups were required to pay more than $282.62.

Based on the billing for the fiscal-year 2012 audit, it was recommended that the groups pay $282.62 for the audit and that the six groups charged more than the normal fee pay the portion of the charge above the normal audit fee in addition to the $282.62.

• Approved the payment of $41,070 to further process USDA-purchased foods for school nutrition programs.

USDA entitlement dollars are used to purchase bulk turkey and pork roasts for school meals. Further processing of these meats is needed to create a final product.

Costs for further processing of turkey and pork products will exceed $15,000 this year for the first time, with $25,815 in processing costs needed for Jennie-O Turkey Store Inc. and $15,255 needed for AdvancePierre Foods, Inc.

• Reviewed the Superintendent’s Monthly Highlights Report; energy and facilities report including energy conservation and summary of major projects; membership report; fund raisers approved by the superintendent; and receipts and expenditures through Aug. 31.

The major projects summary states that the roofing projects at Mt. Olivet Elementary School and Rich Acres Elementary School are complete and waiting on roofing manufacturer inspection, and Stanleytown Elementary School’s roof is about 80 percent complete.

Magna Vista High School ceiling and lighting renovations are approximately 85 percent complete. Upper parking lot pavinghas been completed at Magna Vista and Bassett high schools, and the school system is waiting until the end of football season to complete the lower parking lots.

• Also in the superintendent’s reports was an update on the strategic plan for areas such as SOL performance in math and writing, number of eleventh-graders completing Algebra II with a “C” or better, on-time graduation rate and the number of students receiving advanced studies diplomas.

• Met in closed session to discuss appointments and separations of personnel, student matters and legal matters.

The next school board meeting will be at 9 a.m. Nov. 1, followed by closed session in the Summerlin Meeting Room on the first floor of the Henry County Administration Building.


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