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Deliberative session, bullying on board's agenda

September 29, 2010
ALTON — Even though the deliberative session on the Alton Central School teachers' contract has already passed, the Alton School Board still had things to say about it.

Meeting in the media room at Alton Central School (ACS), the board reviewed Alton Budget Committee Chairman Steve Miller's remarks about the 11 "hard reasons" he opposed the ACS teachers' contract.

"There were some inaccuracies [in his speech]," said SAU 72 Superintendent Kathy Holt.

School Board Vice Chair Terri Noyes and Member Krista Argiroplis wanted "verbatim" notes of Miller's speech in order to respond to his points in the future.

Argiropolis felt "blindsided" by Miller's remarks after she said he failed to discuss some reasons for his opposition to the contract at prior budget committee hearings.

Argiroplis also took issue with Miller's decision to reference school performance statistics during his speech.

"Mr. Miller's point should have been read from the floor and not from the podium," she said.

Argiropolis also clarified that her PowerPoint slideshow presentation delivered at the deliberative session was, in fact, her work and cost neither the school nor the town any money.

Much of the meeting, however, was not concerned with meetings past, but rather with new bullying legislation that will be enacted in the beginning of 2011.

ACS Principal Bonnie Jean Kuras reviewed the verbose "Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act" passed by the New Hampshire legislature that places great responsibility on schools to crack down on bullying.

Kuras said the legislation was first passed in 2000 but has been recently updated with broader criteria including "cyberbullying" and an extension of the school's anti-bullying responsibilities to outside the school itself.

But Kuras said ACS is well prepared to adapt to the new legislation.

"We saw it coming down the pike," she said.

Kuras said she has already started training students and teachers about how best to prevent bullying and to stop it quickly when it arises.

Part of her efforts included having last year's seventh grade create a list of anti-bullying goals and posting them around the junior high school wing.

But even with her new initiatives, Kuras said it is inevitable that instances of bullying will spike with the new, broader definitions.

In a similar vein, Vice Principal Steve Ross presented last year's school discipline record as compared to the year before.

He said the overall number of discipline-related referrals had gone down from approximately 550 in 2008-2009 to approximately 450 in 2009-2010.

Most dramatic was the decrease in the number of bus-related discipline issues, which Kuras said was due to a new "slip" system.

Under the new system, kids receive 'bad' red slips and 'good' green slips from bus drivers that count towards punishments and rewards respectively.

But despite all the talk of discipline, Ross was still very positive about the kids at ACS.

"The kids here in Alton are great," he said.

In addition to Kuras' and Ross' presentations was an overview of the NECAP standardized science test scores by Sydney Leggett, director of instruction at ACS.

She said the school's performance declined slightly last year but that the school is now working on allotting more science instruction for students, particularly in seventh grade.

However, she said that last year's test itself was flawed; the state saw a drop in all test scores from the year before.

Leggett also said they would not have to deal with NECAP tests much longer as national standardized subject tests are planned to take effect in 2014.

"The NECAP is on its way out," she said.

Still, Leggett said the school would continue to refine the science curriculum with some help from Plymouth State University.

The board also saw a short video about "Mr. Macduff's" industrial arts class. In that video, Macduff taught sixth grade students how to build small bridges out of balsa wood and glue. Then, the bridges were tested for strength by attaching a number of weights underneath until they broke.

Kuras was very complimentary of Macduff's teaching, saying that he capably integrated math, physics and engineering concepts into the bridge project.

Other business

Kuras proposed forming more after-school programs, including quasi-physical activities such as a "junior Lego building club" and a "Dance Dance Revolution club."

The latter club has students playing a popular interactive dancing video game after school.

Argiropolis liked the new after-school proposals, saying they were original and accommodated those students who were not signing up to play traditional sports.

The board recommended leasing a new copier machine for four years for roughly $13,000. The proposal will go in front of the budget committee. The lease, in addition to the use of the machine, also includes a service contract.

Building and Grounds Director Karl Ingoldsby said he was looking into putting "stops" on the new windows located on the front of the school to prevent them from opening all the way.

He said there have been problems with people walking into the new windows when they are open. Currently, there are cones placed in front of the front of the school to discourage people from accidentally hitting themselves. Ingoldsby said he is also planning on constructing a passive barrier of fencing and shrubbery to replace the cones.

School Board Chairman Jeff St. Cyr pushed back discussion of the SAU "fact-finding" committee until next meeting. The committee will look into any and all possibilities about altering SAU 72, he said.

The board took a half-an-hour tour of the new improvements made to the school over the summer at the beginning of the meeting.

Next meeting

The next meeting for the Alton School Board will be on Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. in the ACS library. It will be a public work session on the school budget.

The next true meeting will be on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. at the ACS library. The Oct. 11 meeting is canceled because it falls on Columbus Day.

Weston Sager can be reached at 569-3126 or wsager@salmonpress.com

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