District officials say they’re doing the review to make sure their rules and regulations are in compliance with state and federal education policy, which is constantly changing. Board member Dee Crumpler says he knows the process may seem boring:
“For those that might be at home watching this, this is like watching paint dry. But it is important.”
Crumpler says he believes it’s important that people know the board isn’t trying to sneak in and make substantive changes to its policies. For the most part, the changes will be done by district staff, but Board Chairwoman Dee Dee Rasmussen says she wants the board to have a say on anything that could become what a fellow board member called “political quicksand.”
“The other thing I asked about was…highlight the policies that would be most likely to catch our attention, or that of parents, or taxpayers or the media, or anybody.”
The review includes areas such as the districts by-laws, personnel, programs, finance, property and of course, the student codes of conduct. But there’s at least issue the board isn’t planning to touch: student delivery of “inspirational messages” or “school prayer”. The Leon County School District already has a policy in place for that, and the district’s Barbara Wills says, what’s already on the books is just fine.
“That one will stay the same, absolutely. And NEOLA, the company we’re working with, isn’t addressing that either. Dr. Blanton from the Florida School Board Association…he’s recommending to all school boards that they do not adopt any policies on that at this time.”
The issue of inspirational messages is a political hot potato for districts. A new state law authorizes, but doesn’t require school boards to adopt policies that allow inspirational messages to be given by students at assemblies. But the law’s opponents have called it a lawsuit waiting to happen. And the Leon County School Board isn’t taking chances on being sued.
The policy review is being handled by an out-of-state company called NEOLA which also handles rules and regulations for 10 other school districts in the state. The district is paying NEOLA $36,000 over four years to do the work. Wills says that’s less than what it would cost to hire a full-time person to do the same job.