In the second part of a three-part question-and-answer series, candidates identify a weakness of the district and a path to improvement as well as thoughts on the growing problem of cyber-bullying
1. What do you feel is the school district's role in bullying that takes place on social media?
Selynn Barbour: Camdenton R-III's factual role of bullying and "cyber-bullying" is explained in black and white in our school board's policy JFCF, entitled "Hazing and Bullying."
Safety is our school's number one provision.
This policy points out bullying is "prohibited." It also delineates training of our staff, coaches and even volunteers in order to recognize and report bullying. The district communicates with parents and students regarding bullying in our handbooks. This must be read and signed by parents and students at the beginning of each school year.
It is my opinion, that our role and duty is to continuously encourage young people that we should live by "The Golden Rule." That it is proper, law-abiding and highly regarded, to respect one another not only in words, in whatever form of communication that may take, but in actions that lead to a positive, learning environment and future productive life.
Courtney Hulett: Bullying is an age-old problem that has surfaced over the past several years in social media. It has caused great damage to many school children and warrants unbiased attention. In our schools, staff members need clear instruction on how to identify bullying behavior and how to respond to both face-to-face and internet bullying. It is also necessary to educate our students and parents on the mental and physical effects of bullying. Education should explain legal ramifications when bullying takes place in the public domain, and parents need to be on the front line to reduce bullying. Anything that impedes learning can’t be tolerated by the district. Our job is to provide a safe and fun learning environment for staff and students.
Joe Ridgeway: Cyber-bullying has been addressed in Board policies for several years now. I believe it is imperative that school districts place more emphasis now than ever before on curtailing cyber-bulling. Students committing cyber-bullying should be disciplined according to the discipline policy adopted by the School Board in accordance with the law. Students and staff should be given training regarding the recognition of cyber-bullying and the consequences that will follow.
How do we decide when and how to discipline students for online bullying through the social media on their own computer at home is still a question that many educators are dealing with.
We will continue to see court cases in which parents take districts to court because the district disciplined their child for cyber-bullying outside of school. We can curtail cyber-bullying in the future if the courts will support the school districts and their discipline policies.
Mindi Sales: First and foremost, I am against bullying in any form. I think when something is written via social media, I believe it is the responsibility of the parent to address their children's behavior. However, if this behavior bleeds over into the school day, then the district should deal with it. I do not believe the school district can control social media, but I do think they can handle the effects if it disrupts the school day.
Jackie Schulte: Unfortunately, in this day and age, social media is the choice platform bullies use to inflict pain upon their targets. With the ever changing times, our district has taken on several new roles when it comes to the welfare of our students. I admire the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” With that being said, we are the “village.” It is vital that the district and community work together to guide and protect our children. Resources should be available to help the bullied as well as the bully. Having a social worker in our school district would be beneficial in these bullying cases and many other situations for students and staff. However, in the sad case of adult bullies preying on our students, I believe our district should assist authorities, and adults should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
2. Identify and explain one area of weakness the district is currently facing and a path to improvement?
Selynn Barbour: As treasurer I would comment the unpredictability of state and federal funding to be a weakness.
Fortunately, 50% of our current budget is financed locally. Currently, state and federal revenues are budgeted at 15%. When these monies are not received in a timely manner or of a lesser amount the local level must fill the gap. We do this by not over-spending and utilizing, although not often, our reserves. We microscope revenues, expenditures and refinance our debt to not over-spend and save. Because of this discipline our levy has not increased 10 going on 11 years.
Perhaps improvement will be effectively conversing with our elected officials. Fortunately, our state officials are previous school board members and akin to monetary needs.
Perhaps another idea is to begin a state/federal "education rainy day" fund enabling robust revenue to educate our deserving youth each and every day.
Courtney Hulett: Funding reductions are a district-wide challenge. As a district, we need to take a “no stone left unturned” approach to funding programs necessary for the vitality of our youth. We also must keep competitive salaries to retain our staff, or we face losing valuable team members who are not easily replaced.
Talented staff members can continue to obtain funding. We can also continue accessing funds through parent and community booster groups. While we have many alumni that help this district in multiple capacities, some untapped potential still exists. Our alumni are a vast resource of knowledge, with a wide sphere of influence. Former Lakers living worldwide could assist in our current time of need and in the future. We can access alumni financial support and tap their knowledge of other funding avenues. It is our job to be good financial stewards of the district.
Joe Ridgeway: Only twice over the last nine years has the attendance rate of the district surpassed the state attendance levels. With MSIP 5, attendance has continued to be an important part of the Annual Performance Report.
Attendance can be a difficult area in which to make huge gains in improvement due to the fact that the attendance of students is a shared responsibility between the district and the parents/guardians. Every district offers programs or incentives to increase student attendance.
With that being said I would first look at the student handbook’s attendance policy and determine if they needed to be revised to place more emphasis on the consequences for excessive student absences. I would also examine successful programs that other districts, with a comparable enrollment, are implementing. Parent involvement in any program that is implemented is a crucial component to a successful program. Attendance directly correlates with student academic achievement.
Mindi Sales: I think one area of weakness is the lack of communication between the teachers and central office. For example, at the March 10th board meeting, the teachers were discussing how long it took to get reimbursed for expenses related to school. Two options were given to the teachers at the meeting that are already in place to help with that, and not one teacher knew of the options available to them.
I want the teachers to feel like the school board and central office are listening to them, and right now I don't think a lot of teachers feel this way.
Jackie Schulte: Communication has been perceived as a weakness in past surveys. As a result of this identified weakness, we have made improving communication a priority. By implementing our board email, patrons can be confident that information important to them comes directly to the board members. Social media resources also allow us to get vital information to students, staff and patrons in a quick and efficient manner. Camdenton R-III Superintendent, Dr. Hadfield, visits each building in the district often to give our staff members’ opportunities to share their concerns and ideas. Having staff coffee meetings once a quarter in each building to encourage staff to speak openly with our administration is also something I would like the board to consider. As well, I believe a weekly radio segment offered to the public by Dr. Hadfield would provide another means of communication..