by Marwa Eltagouri
The Lewiston-Porter School Board came to a decision at its Tuesday's session on a proposal that was on the table for three weeks: whether or not to add a mandatory work session each month to the board's regular schedule. Members approved the idea, which was first discussed last year.
The goal of the work session, which would be held on the first Tuesday of every month, would be to handle business from the board's regular meetings - such as presentations by outside parties - that cause regular meetings to last up to four hours. In creating the work session, the board would strive to use regular meeting time more effectively.
"We just want meetings to be more efficient, perhaps a four-hour meeting is a bit of a burden," said Jodee Riordan, president of the Board of Education. "The sessions will give us an opportunity for discussion, which we don't usually have during meetings. Also, we have a lot of work to do with budget, so we can spread that out over the entire year, rather than wait for a budget session in March."
The work session proposal was a controversial one. While Riordan promoted it, some board members were skeptical, believing that the board should simply stick to the previous policy of calling special meetings when a heavy topic needed extra discussions, rather than scheduling extra ones ahead of time.
"If you look at our agendas, there are very few things we take up that would require us to talk about it two weeks before," board member Keith Fox said. "I don't have a problem meeting twice a month, but I would prefer us to schedule a meeting when we have something that we need to talk about, as opposed to trying to find agenda for a meeting we have set on the calendar."
"When you go into this idea of work sessions, it all seems almost a way of micromanagement, which I don't want," board member Michael Gentile said. "If they stay informational it's a good idea, but if it lead towards micromanagement, then I'd be against it."
In the end, the board approved work sessions on a 4-2 vote. Sessions will be held starting this year.
Also at the meeting was Ryan Smith, an attorney with Webster Szanyi LLP, who presented the board with policy changes for the upcoming school year.
Smith addressed several new policy updates:
•School bus safety: No cell phones or portable electronic devices would be allowed on buses, school bus monitors would be installed, and frequent safety inspections by school bus owners would be carried out.
•Sexual harassment of district personnel and students: Emphasis would be placed on the fact that sexual harassment is a form of sexual violence, and that off-campus harassment often impacts students in a school setting and must be recognized.
•Notification of sex offenders to the public: According to Megan's Law, law enforcement authorities are required to notify the public of registered sex offenders.
•Credential options for students with disabilities: Starting in September, incoming freshmen will no longer be able to take the Regents competency test, and so a local diploma will be made available.
Several appointments were also decided upon at the meeting, including the volunteer coaching appointments of Erik D'Anna, James Ullery and Joseph Gallagher for football; Edward Quarantillo for swimming; Vicki Price for cheerleading; Kirsten Gresko for tennis; and Jennifer Raby for cross country.
Earl Skingley was appointed as an instructor for a driver's education course, and Brian Webb was appointed as a long-term substitute for Kerry Woods-Schmidt, an English teacher at the high school. Scott Mueller was also appointed as a long-term substitute for Scott Townsend, social studies teacher at the high school. Both substitute positions will be effective Sept. 1 of this upcoming school year.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Resource Center on the Lew-Port campus.