School policy and timber holdings were on the table for discussion Thursday at the North Pike School Board meeting. Trustees discussed at length their disciplinary process, with board representatives holding different opinions on who should have access to what, when things go awry.
Trustee Etta Taplin said she thinks the board needs access to more detailed information regarding student disciplinary hearings, including student testimony, such as a transcript or recording of those conversations. She said having access to more information would help the board make good decisions in the appeals process.
District Superintendent Dennis Penton said the district is obligated to provide the board with information on disciplinary cases, such as a copy of the incident report, a copy of the letter sent to parents or guardians, the charges brought forward by the disciplinary committee and its findings.
Penton said making copies of transcripts or tape recording available to board members presents several challenges. He said that because of the nature of disciplinary hearings, tape recordings can be exceedingly difficult to decipher.
Individuals often speak over one another or speak too quietly to hear on tape altogether, and unless each person is mandated to state their name before every statement, who exactly is speaking would be unclear to the listener.
He said he could pay a stenographer an expensive rate to transcribe hearings but that he did not have enough available staff with the necessary court reporting skills to transcribe each hearing.
Penton added that parents are able to appeal their child’s case to the school board if they believe they have new evidence pertinent to the case or that a mistake was made in the disciplinary process. He said most of the time parents actually agree with the findings of the committee because the consequence usually amounts to a student being placed temporarily in alternative school.
Trustees took no action and Penton said he would look into options to address the concerns brought up by board members at the meeting and report his findings.
In some school districts the board of trustees acts as the judge and jury and even hears appeals when necessary. At most school districts throughout Mississippi, independent discipline committees are formed and disciplinary issues are decided in that way. Then the school board hears appeals.
The idea is to segregate the disciplinary mechanism from the appeal to ensure due process.
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In other news, the board accepted a bid for 16th section land holdings near Turnpike Road east of Summit.
William and Jennifer Jarrell submitted a bid of $18 per acre for continued use of plot 16-04-09. They held control of the land until their lease agreement expired on Sept. 4.
The former lease agreement was in the amount $25.35 per acre and Jarrell requested a reduction in their price. She said similar 16th Section holdings adjacent to theirs were priced at $13.20 per acre and requested that figure.
“That’s a significant reduction,” Penton said.
A representative of the forestry service that the state may not approve the lease agreement at a low price because it generally does not approve such drastic drops in price.
The average price of 16th section land holdings for North Pike School District is $20.13.
“That price is about $1,400 less than usual,” trustee Kevin Matthew said.
“I would not recommend negotiating for the average price,” Penton said.
The board decided it was willing to negotiate with the Jarrell’s down to the average district price, but Jennifer Jarrell said they would not agree to a lease over $18 per acre. The board accepted that offer but warned Jarrell that if the state did not accept the low price, the bidding process would need to be rehashed.
In other business, the board:
• Set a board meeting for Jan. 9 at 6 p.m.
• Accepted the resignation of North Pike Elementary School teaching assistant Alexia Steptoe effective Sept. 30.
• Hired substitute teacher Tiffany Walker, elementary secretary Regina Morgan and substitute food service workers Rakendrick Robison, Dorothy Suggs and Sonya Crumedy.