PRC school board adopts new graduation policy

Published 1:35 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pearl River Central High School students who want to walk across the stage and graduate with their peers had better behave and not get into any trouble.

Students who don’t behave, might get diplomas, but it won’t be in front of friends, relatives, and family .

The Pearl River County school board on Monday night adopted a graduation policy that will help alleviate confusion on who can and who cannot participate in graduation festivities, based on whether or not the student has recent serious disciplinary problems.

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Board member Bonnie Sanders said a number of parents were shocked and complained to the board last year over disciplinary problems close to graduation. “A lot of times the public graduation by the student means more to the parents than it does to the kids,” said Sanders.

The board on Monday night said it wanted students and their parents fully informed and briefed on the new policy.

The policy deals with senior students who have gotten into trouble, mainly shortly before graduation, and face disciplinary problems.

Last year, some parents said they were confused over the policy and approached the board with their problems.

The policy adopted on Monday is broad and allows a lot of room for interpretation by school officials, but allows school officials to pull the privilege of walking across the stage as a disciplinary procedure, if they think the punishment fits. The student in trouble would get a diploma, but not at public graduation exercises.

The resolution adopted and spread on the minutes, which was released to the press on Tuesday morning, said participation in graduation ceremonies is a “significant milestone” in a student’s educational career, but that PRC school administrators still have to maintain the ability to discipline students who are near graduation.

“In accordance with this philosophy, it shall be the policy of the PRC board of education that high school seniors will be held to high standards of discipline until the conclusion of the academic year,” said the resolution.

“Any senior who commits a Level 5 infraction (as defined by the discipline code of the district) during the last three weeks of the school year shall have his/her right to participate in the graduation exercises for his/her school revoked,” said the resolution. A level 5 infraction is the highest, or worst.

Supt. Dennis E. Penton said parents would be notified of the policy along with students, and that a question-and-answer session will be held with all seniors to advise them of the policies regarding graduation.

In other matters, the board voted to purchase a PA, or sound system, for the board meetings. Each school board member would have a mike and the system would have a recording system to record each board meeting.

Also, board member and president Twila Crabtree said she had been told that state school auditors were at the school doing an audit and she asked what it was about. Board attorney Jim Keith said that was not unusual or uncommon, that auditors audit schools all the time and that he knew of no serious problems PRC was facing. Crabtree said she had received several calls from parents about the matter and what it means.

The board went into the open meeting at 6:30 p.m. and it lasted to 9:15 p.m. The board covered a 35-item agenda in open session and then went into an executive session.

In the closed session, the board discussed personnel matters, a legal matter, and two student matters.

The board earlier voted to move two items off the open agenda to the closed-door session. They were: Consider the recommendation of Chris King to complete the 2009-2010 high school yearbook with a supplement of $3,000, and consider approving the recommendation of Betty Wheat for the position of staff accountant, effective Nov. 2, pending successful completion of the fingerprinting process and background check.

The board also voted down a recommendation, 3-2,  to consider approving the recommendation of Deborah Morrison, high school teacher, for an extra teaching assignment, Geology, during her fourth period planning and pay her accordingly.

The board tabled until December a recommendation for pay increases for employees not on a pay scale or the pay scale was frozen. The pay increases were scheduled to take effect on Nov. 2.

In addition, board member Michelle Boyd told Penton she wanted a budget analysis and teacher schedule report each month. She said she had requested it in July and had not received it. The board voted 5-0 to require the report.