By Pam Dudding
With summer almost over and the new school year just around the corner, the Craig County School Board has worked diligently through the summer to get things done.
At their June meeting, music teacher Alyssa Schulke and her student Jordyn Price played and sang Wagon Wheel.
Superintendent Jeanette Warwick shared, “We love to showcase the talent of our students! What a great way to open our School Board meeting.”
Three Craig students participated in the Blue Ridge Regional Art Show that is sponsored by the Virginia School Board Association. The Art teachers from each school pick one student to go Regional. They were: McCleary – Maggie Underwood in 5th; Middle – Carson Mabes – 7th grade; and high school was Callie Musselwhite in 10th grade.
They were proud to announce that Carson Mabes also placed third in the Blue Ridge region.
“Her artwork will be displayed this next year in our school board office,” Warwick said. “I want to thank Mrs. Frazier and Ms. Lance who were the teachers and have done an outstanding job with these students.”
The School Board wishes to appoint a student representative to sit on the School Board. The principal will recommend two students and one will be elected. They plan to meet with the high School classes and explain the role before receiving applications from the students.
The Board voted on an Annual Agreement they submit to the Virginia High School League, of whether to give permission to play on a Sunday in emergency situations, such as games being canceled, rained out, etc., especially tournaments.
“Historically I have brought this to the Board for your input. Up until now, we have not issued permission for that,” Warwick said.
The Board did not want to require students to participate on the team when many go to church or have family functions. If they are on a team, they are required to choose.
Debbie Boitnott shared, “Most games are not played during church hours, but when you are in tournaments, and you get rained out then they can still choose to play or forfeit.”
Athletic Director Susan Stimeling shared, “This would be a last-minute decision to be made. We are a church community and appreciate that it is brought to our board. I would want it to be up to the coaches, the team, and parents.”
She noted that at the end of soccer and baseball season, with all the rain, it was very difficult to get all the games in which had been postponed.
Powers asked if it could be requested that if it was an “emergency,” that the game not start until after 1 p.m.
Bellassai also added that there would be no disciplinary action taken then against any student who chose not to play on a Sunday.
“I personally think that we shouldn’t do it. It opens a door later on to cause a bigger problem. You don’t have to put any child in that spot. We have six other days to make up. I think we can give one day for students to be in the house of the Lord with family. I think it is something we should keep as we are a tight-knit community and we should give the Lord what is His,” member Kevin Altizer said.
Marsden added that even at 1 p.m., for a family to get out of church and try to feed their family before a 1 p.m. game, would be difficult, especially if played out of town.
Warwick repeated that historically, CCPS has not played on Sundays, and it has not caused problems. The Board chose not to adopt Sunday play.
The Board had requested outside Engagement and Exit surveys, which are administered in the fall and spring. Individual survey answers are not shared, only an overview. The cost would be $8200. annually. There is the possibility of a discount if the company joins in with a consortium.
“It would give us a lot of visibility of finding issues that staff members may have,” Bellassai said. “It is a significant amount but when we consider it is to improve retention, it is worth it.”
Warwick shared that Title II funding can be used for this, however with the members research, and the current exit surveys conducted which go directly to the superintendent in a self-addressed stamped envelope, the decision was made to keep an anonymous in-house survey and to reject this expensive option.
Warwick will share those with the Board once all are compiled.
Warwick shared the updated plans with no masks and social distancing at this point or contact tracing, which will be placed on the website.
The athletic handbook was updated with VHSL information and Principal Susan Stimeling added that she added a link so that parents could also have that access. Stimeling added that she felt the meetings with parents and coaches to do the updates was very successful and would like to continue that process in the future, adding any other students and parents.
Warwick added that the student handbook was also updated.
“One of the nice things this year is that Ms. Crowder has just received notification that we will be under the eligibility provision which means none of our students will be charged for breakfast or lunch,” Warwick announced. “That is going to be a great benefit to all of our children, pre-K through 12.
“The community eligibility provision has been available to school systems for a number of years, but we have not qualified before because of our reduced lunch rate, but we now qualify,” she added. “They can get a hot breakfast and lunch every day and not worry if they have the money. However, this Board has always been very generous as we have never denied a child a meal and found ways to cover the cost.”
Warwick went on to discuss the Code of Conduct guidelines.
“Last year the Virginia Department of Education in school divisions gave us a model to follow based on legislation. It is looking at behaviors, in trying to do teaching and not having students constantly out of school. This handbook is levels of behavior to assist in guiding the principals in directions to take when things occur. This is in line with the DOE conduct and meant to be a guide for administration and parents to understand the different options that could occur if a student has one of these discipline issues.”
She added that now, there is a separate Code of Conduct which helps teachers, staff, administration, and parents to have a very clear understanding of each disciplinary action.
“These are actions we can take before we move to sending students out of school,” Warwick said. “There are some infractions that will warrant an out of school suspension, but the purpose of these policies is to keep kids in school as much as possible.”
The Board still retains the rights to hear appeals of long-term suspensions.
The Board named Trace Bellassai and Faye Powers as their delegate and assistant to attend the meeting in Williamsburg to represent CCPS.
Warwick announced that Samuel Foster is no longer with CCPS, and Heather Duncan was chosen as the new Superintendent Designee.
Warwick wished to follow up from June’s meeting about the Safety Committee, sharing that she keeps in consistent contact with Sheriff Craddock and in determining a school safety committee, appointed by the school board.
The Board discussed staff representation, parents, formal military personnel and other communities as members of people, to be voted on at the August meeting.
“If we appoint one faculty member or teacher, their job will be to reach out to the others for their input,” Warwick added.
It is listed on the website for parents or others who may be interested.
School safety is being set as a priority and Maintenance director Gills is double checking all entry and exits. Warwick added that drills and crisis plans will be covered again before the students return with teachers and staff. Additional safety ideas have also been discussed.
The decision to have their annual “Load the Bus” event at Food Country was made on Saturday, July 23. Warwick had not yet gotten approval to have one at Wal-Mart in Salem, as they have done in years past; however, she heard later that they could on Saturday, July 30.
Community members are encouraged to attend the August School Board meeting in the school auditorium on August 9 at 5:30 p.m.