The McComb school board had split opinions Tuesday in approving a student discipline policy that includes corporal punishment.
Trustees also were divided about adding student attendance and teacher retention to its list of goals for 2020-21, but agreed unanimously to install cameras that will allow livestream broadcasts of home football and basketball games.
Trustee Lynn Gilmore has been vocal for several years in her opposition to spanking students. She believes it traumatizes students who are already agitated enough to misbehave.
On Tuesday, she said she has checked with some high-performing districts in Mississippi that do not use corporal punishment. She cited other research that says spanking is ineffective.
“I don’t know why we would think it’s OK to actually have this, where we are actually applying more trauma,” Gilmore said.
Board chairman Kizzy Coney said, “I’m for corporal punishment. It’s the parents’ prerogative.”
Coney noted that the district cannot spank a child unless parents sign a document allowing it at the start of each school year.
Gilmore for the first time gained the support of trustee Lorraine Gayden, who said simply, “I’ve been converted.”
McComb has included corporal punishment in its student discipline policy for several years. The policy got approved for this year by a 3-2 vote, with Coney and trustees Betsy Murrell and Eliece Rayborn voting to keep it.
As for the district’s goals, the board approved a list similar to prior years, with most of the items related to improvements in student achievement. The vote was 3-2, again with Coney, Murrell and Rayborn in the majority, because of the decision to table two new proposals.
The new proposals were a student attendance rate of 80 percent at the end of the 2020-21 school year, as well as a teacher retention rate of 80 percent.
Superintendent Dr. Cederick Ellis said after the meeting he did not have specific figures for either category available from 2019-20, but he was sure that attendance was close to 90 percent.
Rayborn and Coney questioned the wisdom of holding Ellis and administrators responsible for student attendance and teacher retention.
“When the teacher’s contract expires, you can’t make them stay here,” Rayborn said.
Coney, discussing student attendance, said parents of kids who miss too much school need to take more responsibility.
She asked Ellis for statistics from last year, and when they were not available, she suggested the board table the two proposals.
Gilmore said she asked for the two elements to be added to the list of goals after hearing about their importance at a Mississippi School Boards Association workshop.
“I ask for data, and when we don’t get it, it makes me wonder why we are even here as a school board,” she added. “If we do not have these goals, why have any goals at all?”
Gilmore and Gayden voted against tabling the two new goals.
As for the sports livestreaming, the board approved a five-year contract with the National Federation of High Schools Network. The district will pay a one-time $2,500 fee for the installation of one camera at C.C. Moore Stadium and another in the high school gymnasium.
A letter to the school board from athletic director Mike Jeanson said, “These cameras will allow us to record and stream our home games live for any sport. Fans will have the option to purchase seasonal or monthly passes to view games virtually, of which the school gets proceeds from the sale.”
Jeanson said this will be an opportunity for out-of-town residents to watch McComb home games, and it should help players get consideration for athletic scholarships.