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School board discusses plan of action for River Road

By Makenna Mays, Staff Writer

What to do regarding bus transportation on River Road and teacher evaluations were some of the main topics of discussion at the Monday, July 8 school board meeting.

At the request of the school board, Michael LaRocco, director of School Transportation for the Indiana Department of Education, returned to Franklin County on Tuesday, May 28 to re-visit River Road and give his opinion regarding safety for bus travel. At the previous school board meeting on Monday, June 10, members voted to further explore their options for bus transportation on River Road.

There were three options presented: Discontinue all bus service options on River Road; Continue to provide bus service to and from the current Allred Lane drop-off and pick-up point; or Request county commissioners install and maintain a new turn-a-round contingent upon agreement from property owners.

School board president Francis Brumback began the discussion by asking the school board's attorney, Amber McMillin Orozco, what the legal repercussions of running the route on River Road would be.

Orozco said because there is a written opinion out there from the Department of Education regarding being on the road and that it is not safe for bus travel, if they should choose to serve River Road and something would happen, there's no getting out of the liability.

Brumback said they always want to keep parents happy as often as they can. However, the board did receive the do-not-travel opinion from LaRocco two times, and he has since deferred the decision to the board. Brumback also added he spoke with a former bus driver who did not like traveling that route.

“We sit here on a regular basis, and we say 'let's be safe for our kids,' and we have a plethora of people telling us not to run the route on River Road,” said Brumback.

Board member Sharon Wesolwoski added she had recently traveled on River Road.

“All the way up until the last potential homeowner we would stop at, I don't see a whole lot of difference in a lot of roads in Franklin County,” said Wesolowski.

Wesolowski said she understands they have the opinion from LaRocco, but also understands he left it up to the board to decide, because he is not familiar with the roads in Franklin County. She added there are roads with 90-degree bends all over Franklin County.

Orozco said with a written record of that road being dangerous, if something were to happen, and they were to get sued, that person suing the corporation would be more likely to win.

“There are other people who feel the route is unsafe, and we shouldn't ignore what we're being told based simply off that fact that when we drive it, we feel okay,” said Brumback.

Board member Terry Bryant said he had talked to the property owners in regards to a turn-a-round, and they were in agreement at that time. Wesolowski made a motion they explore option three, and talk to the property owners and the commissioners and see what the possibility is of getting the requirements they need. Phil Harsh abstained from the vote and Beth Foster opposed.

Orozco made a suggestion they survey out the easement so the property owners know what they're giving up and how they would be affected. The board would pay for that that survey and then take it to the commissioners and ask that they maintain it and suggest it be an easement terminable by the school corporation or property owners. Lynn Edwards, FCCSC director of Transportation, added they would need an easement because there will need to be an additional drainage pipe put in and some additional land will be used as well.

Other items on the agenda included recognizing Mary Spurlock's retirement. Spurlock retired from Franklin County High School after teaching for 19 years. She had previously served at the high school as a custodian before pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher. Board member Rick Gill commended Spurlock on all of her hard work throughout the years. Steve Wewe was also recognized for his retirement after 30 years, but he was not present at the meeting.

Assistant superintendent Tammy Chavis requested the approval of two changes regarding teacher evaluations for the 2019-2020 school year. The first change was teachers who are rated highly effective on their final evaluation from the previous year can opt out of the second evaluation of the new school year. If they opt out, that teacher has to give the principal, in writing, notice they are opting out of the second evaluation. However, the administrator reserves the right to do as many evaluations as he or she feels necessary.

The second change was regarding the teacher evaluation plan. Every year a teacher evaluation plan is submitted to the Department of Education and reviewed. This past year, FCCSC was dinged on not defining negative impact. This would be defined as teachers who teach I-LEARN subjects. If they have a low growth or low achievement in how their students score, that teacher will be described as having negative impact.

This translates as being automatically bumped down to needs improvement, and the teacher would not qualify for salary increases or tag money. The corporation did not have any teachers with negative impact this year; however, tests are changing. For other teachers, negative impact would be described as less than 40 percent of the total number of students achieving mastery on either their end-of-year final or end-of-year project.

The 2019 Teacher Appreciation grant distribution policy was approved for this year. During the legislative process, money is set aside to be used as a teacher appreciation grant, and is based on how well teachers do on the state assessment. The money is distributed around November or December. There were no changes to the process.

Other items on the agenda included:

*Appointed Brian Campbell to the Franklin County Library Board as the representative for the school board.

*Accepted a pre-owned electronic fuel-tracking system from Harvest Land, which is worth approximately $2,000.

*Sara Duffy, the school board's representative on the Franklin County Redevelopment Commission, gave an update from the FCRC meeting which was held earlier that morning. FCRC has started working on a scoresheet to rate future projects on whether or not the given project should receive any Tax Increment Financing money. No decisions were made at the meeting.

*The Extra Curricular Account Procedures Handbook was presented to the board for discussion only. This is for the ECA treasurers for each school, and it gives them an overall description about their responsibilities, different jobs that have to be done, when they are due, credit card policy and the donation and grant policy.

* An amendment was made to the 2019-2020 calendar. The last student day of May 22 remains the same, but the last teacher day will be May 26. The 2020-2021 calendar was also approved.

* The board also approved the random drug testing policy for non-CDL drivers.

The next school board meeting will be held Monday, August 12 at 7 p.m.