Schools notebook: Cell phone restrictions

District to ease student cell phone restrictions

The School Board was seen as likely to approve a less restrictive student cell phone policy at its Aug. 23 meeting.

The use of personal electronic devices — a category that includes iPods and tablet computers in addition to cell phones — and even their possession on school campuses is prohibited under existing district rules. The new policy would “allow possession and use that’s appropriate based on student age, teacher permission and principal permission,” said Nan Miller, the district’s director of policy development.

The new policy recognizes the devices can be useful tools in an educational setting and that, for some families, student access to a cell phones is a safety issue.
It was developed in cooperation with CityWide Student Government, whose representatives made clear the policy change was a priority in appearances before the School Board last school year.

Board Member Lydia Lee said the new policy finally brought the district “into this new century.”

“We need to be prepared for who we’re facing in the classrooms now,” Lee, a former teacher, said. “A number of school districts across the country are looking at these personal electronic devices as resources, as actually a means to have really positive academic purposes.”

The policy gives students in district middle and high schools permission to possess personal electronic devices at school, although the devices must be turned off and kept out of sight at times when their use is not allowed. Elementary students can carry cell phones if their parents request it and the school principal grant permission.

Generally, the new policy restricts use to before and after the regular school day, unless a teacher or principal grants permission. High school students would be allowed to use cell phones between classes and during their lunch periods.

Any device features that allow for the taking of photos or recording of video or audio cannot be used unless a school staff member gives permission, the policy states. It also prohibits any kind of use in restrooms and locker rooms.

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Mammen proposes new School Board oversight of salaries

Caught off guard by Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s decision to raise the pay of some district employees in July and uproar that followed, School Board members may take a greater oversight role in employee pay decisions in the future.

Media reports that Johnson awarded $270,000 in raises to 35 administrators after a study showed they were underpaid prompted calls to board members, who were not informed of the decision. Board Member Richard Mammen said a new policy being drafted “specifically requires the superintendent to report and discuss any and all non-represented employee salary adjustments before they become effective.”

At the Aug. 9 School Board meeting, Mammen said Johnson’s move to bring administrators’ pay in line with peers in comparable districts was “well-intentioned” but poorly timed.

Johnson acknowledged her decision was “insensitive” at the same meeting.

“I will acknowledge that it was not the best decision to implement the policy in this tough economic environment,” she said. “I was not as sensitive as I needed to be to the realities that many in our communities are facing.”

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Southwest student to head student government

Isabel Pone of Southwest High School will serve as president of CityWide Student Government for the 2011–2012 school year.

In elections that took place at the end of last school year, Tess Dutton of Anthony Middle School was elected president at the middle-school level of the organization. Pone and Dutton will lead a council that includes about 150 student representatives from 30 district high schools, alternative high schools and middle schools.

Other high school officers include: Co-president Allison Batt of South; Vice President Antonique Martin of Henry; Secretary Steve Kinney of Washburn; liaisons to the Board of Education William Brown of Edison and Savanna Engel of Southwest; Technology Coordinator Matt Kinney of Washburn; and student lobbyists Cece Barajas of Southwest and Amirah Ellison of South.

Also serving as middle school officers are: Co-president Ezra Bergmann of Seward Montessori; Vice President Shameela Abdullah of Anwatin; Secretary Juliette Croce of Anthony; Urban Eyes newsletter Editor Peter Tolle of Marcy; Liaison to the Board of Education Marcus Villarreal of Anwatin; and Public Relations Coordinator Dallas Griffin of Anwatin.

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Credit union collecting school supplies

TruStone Financial Federal Credit Union will collect school supplies for students in grades K–12 at its eight Minnesota locations, including two in Minneapolis, through Aug. 24.

The credit union collects donated school supplies during its annual School Express drive and works with the Kids In Need Foundation to distribute those supplies to schools and educators. The foundation, a non-profit charitable organization, operates nationwide but maintains offices in Minneapolis and Dayton, Ohio.

To learn more about School Express and which supplies are most needed visit trustonefinancial.org or call 763-544-1517.