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Watkins Glen school board 12/21/09

Meeting:  The Watkins Glen school board met Monday, Dec. 21 for one hour and 30 minutes.
Attendance:  Kevin Field and Gloria Brubaker were the only board members absent.  There was one member of the public in the audience.
Discussion without action:  The board read through policy changes, ending with the use of electronic devices in school.  The board agreed to make the wording in a generic policy say cell phone use in school will be determined by each school’s principal.  Superintendent Tom Phillips said this would take effect when the board adopts the policy, which happens annualy.  The board heard from both the middle school and high school principals.  Middle school Principal Kristine Somerville said for her, the no cell phone rule at all in the middle school has worked well for that grade level because of the age of the students.  High school Principal Dave Warren said some cell phone use in the high school is needed, because the students are on the cusp of being adults.  He added, the high school should encourage appropriate use of cell phones during the day.  Board member Robert Dill stated again that students should be able to use cell phones during lunch, because it is not an academic period.  Phillips said the next step would be for the high school to work on the specifics of that school’s cell phone policy.
• Other policy changes reviewed included the naming of facilities, increasing the threshold to bid out a project from $20,000 to $35,000, and teachers now educating students on online social networking and Internet bullies.
• Somerville and Warren also mentioned in each of their reports about before and after school help.  Somerville said the middle school help is Wednesday mornings, but they are looking at adding another morning.  Warren said the after school help for high school students has expanded to two locations.  He explained, before students were invited if they needed help, but now it is mandatory.  Board member Brian O’Donnell asked if this increase in after school help is placing a burden on the buses.  Warren said it was not and Buildings Manager Mike DeNardo would alert him if it was.  Phillips added Watkins Glen was featured in the BOCES newsletter for its after school programs.
• Phillips also talked about Gov. Paterson withholding funds to schools.  He said he didn’t want to get started on the school’s budget until the district had some idea what things would be like on the state level.  He said by the end of January, they should have some idea.
• Somerville said the fifth and seventh graders have been given the GoKnow! cell phones to use for school work.  Phillips said he has gotten calls from parents with concerns about what students can access with the phones.  He added parents seem relieved that there are filters in place so students have limited access to the Internet.
• Phillips said Jenna Swarthout was honored at this month’s Rotary meeting as the student of the month.
Upcoming meetings:  The next regular meeting is Monday, Jan. 4, 2009.  It is expected to start at 6:30 p.m.    

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