School drug policy reconsidered

News editor

Marion/Florence school board members questioned the value of continuing middle school and high school drug testing, especially for nicotine.

The district randomly tests a few students every week. This year about 200 students were tested, and 15 tested positive for nicotine — the active chemical in tobacco. Two students tested positive for marijuana.

“What is the goal of the policy?” board member Jeremiah Lange asked.

Board member Jan Helmer said she had spoken about drug testing with Keith Collett, who was on the school board when testing was implemented. Collett told her that nicotine testing was included because it easily could be added in addition to the testing for hard drugs; testing for nicotine wasn’t the point of the program.

High school principal Tod Gordon said there are only a few positive tests for marijuana each year and never anything harder. Lange said the testing isn’t finding students who drink, despite the fact that quite a few do.

Board president Chris Sprowls said he thought the testing was wasting money and staff time. Board member Lyle Leppke didn’t think the school needed to test for nicotine, especially because secondhand smoke can result in a positive test.

Teacher Janet Killough said random drug testing can give students an excuse to say “no” when people are pressuring them to drink, smoke, or use drugs.

Sprowls said he would like administrators’ or the staff’s recommendations before the board decides what to do about the drug testing policy. Gordon thought it would be best to continue testing for illicit drugs.

Helmer said the district could keep a policy with consequences for testing positive for drugs while cutting random testing.

The district could test a student who they have credible evidence is in violation of the policy.

Superintendent Lee Leiker said he would bring a recommendation to the board June 10.

Building addition proposal sent back for more details

Industrial arts and agriculture teachers Roger Schwab and Mark Meyer presented an initial proposal for an addition to their building. The department needs more storage and workshop space, Schwab said.

Schwab had received an estimate of $90,000 for an 1,800-square-foot addition, not including shelving or other fixtures. Such an addition would leave a good place for possible future addition of a greenhouse, Meyer said.

The board urged the teachers to flesh out their proposal and bring it back at a future meeting.

Rising costs, lower revenue crunch budget

An expected enrollment decrease of about 30 students combined with rising health insurance costs and scheduled raises for teachers will combine to take about $162,000 out of the 2013-14 budget.

Leiker expects decreasing enrollment will cost the district about $99,000 in funding, health insurance costs are expected to increase about $50,000, and scheduled raises will increase payroll about $13,000.

The district does have room to increase local property taxes to make up part of the budget difference, but Leiker said the board will have to think about spending cuts and adjustments. He said there aren’t any easy or popular cuts that could be made anymore.

90 minutes spent in closed session

Leiker and the board met in closed session for 90 minutes to discuss personnel matters and negotiations with teachers. Building principals were included in the final 70 minutes of the closed session. No action was taken on return to open session.

In other business:

  • Chad Adkins resigned as assistant softball coach.
  • Leiker reported on professional development and optional insurance and retirement plans for teachers.
  • The board approved allowing Men’s Encounter to rent a bus to go to a retreat Memorial Day weekend in Augusta.
  • The Marion High School Alumni Scholarship amount was set at $500 per year. Previously the scholarship had been 90 percent of the interest on the scholarship fund, but with low interest rates, that was less than $100 in 2012.
  • The contractor who repainted the pool at the sports and aquatics center will repaint it again in the fall at the contractor’s expense. Because of problems with a batch of paint, there are yellow spots in the pool.
  • The high school will release students at 2 p.m. Friday because of regional track and field.

 

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