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Outrage sparks over chaperone at school board meeting

The Madison County School Board came together on Tuesday, September 15 at 6 p.m. The meeting opened with public comment. Many parents came to the board with a major concern about derogatory comments made about the MCHS band by a chaperone. The parents reported that a chaperone made racist comments about band members on the bus while going to the game against Brooks County on Friday, September 4. Parents also reported that there were separate buses for girls and boys. “My child came home in tears and relayed the things that were said and done on the bus, which included law enforcement intervention request,” said one parent. “There are also emails provided that the chaperone parents are saying that the black guard girls need to be gotten rid of, one by one, weekly.” Superintendent Doug Brown agreed to do a full investigation. One parent suggested on getting the hard drive from the bus' security camera and reviewing the audio and video content to find out which chaperone made offensive comments. Brown also agreed he would look into why there were two separate buses transporting students to the game and ensure that there are administrative staff on board along with the chaperones.

Another parent came up to the podium after the discussion of the chaperone died down. She told the board that the principal of Greenville Elementary, Barbara Pettiford, drove a child home in her private vehicle. Board Member Bart Alford confirmed with the board that there is a policy that clearly states that administration and school staff are not allowed to transport students, especially not in private vehicles. The parent was also concerned with Pettiford's treatment towards the parents. Board Member VeEtta Hagan also stated Pettiford had treated her disrespectfully when she went into the school. “The community has lost all confidence. This is a critical year for Greenville Elementary,” said Hagan. Hagan commented that she waited at the reception desk at Greenville Elementary for five minutes without being attended to. “Somebody needs to be at the front desk at all times,” said Hagan. The chaperone issue was brought up again after conversation about Pettiford. One parent wanted to remind the board what a volunteer should not be doing when giving their time to the school. She also let the board know that there was no volunteer handbook up on the website, and this could be part of the issue as to why the chaperone made offensive comments. Doug assured the parent he would put together a handbook. “I would like the board to consider suspension of out of district activities for that band until we can get it together,” the concerned parent said. After public comment, Chairman Kenny Hall moved on to the items on the agenda. The items for recommended consent were approved. The first item on the agenda were Staff Trips. Brown reported one staff trip for Dr. Williams to attend a technical assistance meeting in Orlando September 29 through September 30. This was approved by the board. Brown also announced that there would be a staff trip for a governance training trip in Weewahitchka for the Chief Academic Officer. The next item on the agenda dealt with out-of-county student trips. Brown reported that there was one meeting for the Adult Education students to tour a manufacturing facility in Perry. Truancy Intervention Procedures were reviewed next. This was the third time the document was brought up at the school board meeting. Brown explained that the procedures contained in the document outlined how to deal with truant or chronically absent students and was modeled by Taylor County.

“I think it's already paying off,” said Brown. Karen Pickles pointed out something to Brown while reviewing the document and requested that there be an option in the gender section for transgender students or remove the gender option from the truancy procedures. Pickles informed Brown that the form could say male, female or other when dealing with gender options. Next, a vote for a Value Adjustment Member and Community Member was made. Chairman Kenny Hall and VeEtta Hagan were voted as the Value Adjustment members. Billy Washington was voted as the Community Member. These votes were approved. Willie Williams took to the podium to inform the board about personnel changes, screened school volunteers and staffing table revisions. There were no personnel changes or screened school volunteer changes, however, Williams announced that there was a need for three separate paraprofessionals for Lee, Greenville and Pinetta. The approval for these positions was tabled for next meeting. The Board also approved the advertisement for a clerical position, 4-1. The next item on the agenda was revisions to policies 6.10, 7.111, 6.41, 6.40, 6.33 and 5.27. A public hearing for each revision was held. Williams went over each revision. Section 6.10 covers substitute teachers. The policy needed to be added on to, and Williams explained that the only thing needed to be added to the policy was that a substitute could have a valid Florida educative certificate or a document issued by this district or another Florida school district. The changes were adopted and approved. 7.111 dealt with facsimile signature. Williams announced that there was an addition to the third part of this policy: the Vice chairperson has no authority to sign warrants or school documents except when the Vice chairperson is to take over the position of the chairperson. This was approved. 6.41 covered Instructional Employee Criteria and there was an item added to the third section. The third section stated that the Superintendent should submit an instructional employee procedure assessment through the Department of Education for approval. This addition was approved. 6.40, The Assessment of Employees, including non-instructional, was reviewed next. An additional policy was added to the ninth section and stated that an employee may respond to assessment by the manner provided by the law or other approved procedures. This addition was approved. Policy 6.33, the Policy of Alcohol and Drug Free Workplace, was discussed next.

A change was added to the procedures of the workplace. Employees will be offered assistance and information on the drug-free workplace. Williams explained that before, there was no assistance offered and information was just given out. Now, assistance will be given to those who need it in the form of workshops and assistance programs. This change was approved. The last policy discussed was 5.27, which is an update on bullying and harassment. The new change added an extended version of the policy that clearly and separately defined bullying, harassment and cyberbullying. The extended version encompassed perpetration, retaliation and cyberstalking as well. Brown agreed with the policy. “The definition of bullying needs to be clear,” said Brown. These additions were approved. After all of the policy revisions were covered, the next workshops for the Madison Creative Arts Academy were announced and approved. The next workshops will be held Monday, September 21 at 6 p.m. and Tuesday, September 22 at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend. Brown then announced the construction project updates. Construction is continuing and the roof framework is being put together. “There are many rapid changes that are visible to the eye,” said Brown. To conclude the meeting, the budget worksheets for DJJ were passed around to the board. Brown told the board there would be further review for these budgets on Tuesday, September 22 at the workshop at 6 p.m. The town attorney also informed the board that the sale of the hospital was occurring Friday, September 18 and the insurance added changes to the resolution, however, the contract stayed the same in price. These changes were approved.

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