Education board discusses policy changes
During its May 28 meeting, the Board of Education reviewed, discussed and proposed provisions to the school district’s grading policy, employee conduct policy, graduation requirements policy and nutrition regulation.
As a follow-up to its heavily attended discussion on weighted grades back in April, the board reviewed and discussed its grading policy during its May meeting.
Adopted in 1999, Policy 6147 currently states that “a grade weighting/class ranking system shall not be implemented in the district’s high school.”
Education board member Christine Finkelstein said the Communications, Alignment and Policies Committee “continues to gather research input with regard to whether or not a change needs to be made to the district’s current policy.”
She said the board had held a “very productive” workshop with teachers and guidance counselors earlier that week where thoughts on weighted grades were exchanged.
“We continue to hear from members of our community who take the time to weigh in and let us know how they feel about this issue,” Finkelstein told the board.
“At this point, I think we have a very good idea of all the pros and all the cons on the topic. We believe there may be room in our current policy for some improvement but, of course, we want to be very careful before we propose any changes.”
Finkelstein said the next step is to assemble a working group comprised of Communications, Alignment and Policies Committee members and high school administration and faculty.
“We will look at policies and practices in place in other successful districts — some in Connecticut, as well as those in top-performing public high schools across the country,” she said.
“We’ll use those findings for the basis of what will eventually become a recommendation to the board to either revise the policy or to keep it as is.”
The board discussed changing the district’s seven-year-old employee conduct policy (P-4118.23) to specifically prohibit medical marijuana.
Under the current policy, employees are not permitted to work if they are “under the influence of alcohol or engaged in the use or possession of any illegal and/or controlled substance without medical supervision.”
“We have expanded a bit on language regarding prohibiting staff from using controlled substances or alcohol during working hours,” said Finkelstein. “Prohibition of employees’ use of medical marijuana during the day, on the job.”
Human Resources Director Susan Paley said employee use of medical marijuana would be treated the same way as their prescription drug use.
Employees are not obligated to report medications they are taking, but “if somebody starts questioning an employee’s job performance,” she said, “what normally happens is they’ll be brought in for a discussion.”
“If they say, ‘I may be acting this way because I’m taking this drug,’” said Paley, then that’s when the medication use would be addressed.
The board discussed making revisions to the Graduation Requirements policy (P-6146) that reflect the change in administered standardized testing — from the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) to the Smarter-Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
“For this coming year, we are not setting a performance criteria level because we haven’t gotten the data [from the SBAC testing] yet,” said Assistant Superintendent Charles Smith. “Once we see what the data looks like, we can then set a performance level for graduation.”
Wilton High School Principal Robert O’Donnell said he has been talking to Smith about the graduation performance requirement change and he supports it “for now, because we are somewhat influx.”
“We did have good participation numbers on the SBAC and at this point, our data suggests 94% participation rate,” said O’Donnell.
“I commend our students and families for following through and I think we’re where we need to be with this proposal.”
As for the district’s Student Nutrition and Physical Activity regulation (R-6142.101), Smith said, “we’re looking to basically change the regulation for foods served during the school day to make it align with federal regulations.”
Those changes, he said, are “primarily related to trans fats, sugar and soda — things like that.”
“We’re not allowed to offer things like candy or baked goods during the school day, but you can 30 minutes after the lunch waves,” Smith explained.
The district’s current regulation states that “fund-raisers involving food during the school day shall be at the discretion of the school principal” and “consistent with healthy food guidelines.”
When it comes to the high school, O’Donnell said, school-day bake sales are “a bit of a challenge right now.”
“We have a unique culture at Wilton High School. The students do run bake sales for fund-raising,” he said. “I think overall, our students are healthy — I do believe that, but we do have bake sales during the day.”
If that is to change, O’Donnell said, “I think we owe it to the students to find an alternative approach to fund-raising.”
Changes to the district’s employee conduct policy, graduation requirements policy and nutrition regulation will be reviewed and voted on at the board’s next meeting on June 11.
As for weighted grades, Likly said, “we would like to have something done by the end of the summer.”
Policies and regulations can be viewed on the Board of Education’s website.