School board considers ban on e-cigarettes
E-cigarettes have filtered into policies at Fairfield Community School District.
At its May meeting, the school board approved first readings of board policies that included good conduct regulations for participation/eligibility requirements for students.
Added to the good conduct rules is the loss of eligibility under the Extracurricular Activities Policy for: Possession, use, or purchase of tobacco or tobacco look-alike products, regardless of the student’s age, if the offense results in a suspension.
E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, also known as personal vaporizers or electronic nicotine delivery systems, are battery powered and simulate tobacco smoking by producing a vapor that resembles smoke. A heating element in the cigarette vaporizes a liquid solution that may or may not contain nicotine.
So while the district already had a good conduct policy about tobacco, the tobacco look-alike product wording is added to cover e-cigarettes. The school board will need to have a second and third reading to make this board policy.
A separate policy for a tobacco-free environment also was updated to include tobacco look-alike products, but it was decided to send this policy back to committee.
The school board’s policy committee includes three board members, Jerry Nelson, Phil Miller and Rich Metcalf, and district business manager Kim Sheets, superintendent Art Sathoff and auxiliary services director Fred McElwee. The committee met April 28 to review these new policy updates.
Metcalf said at the full board meeting May 19 he didn’t want the updated policy to include a mention of e-cigarettes.
“We already have a tobacco-free policy,” he said.
Board president Jennifer Anderson said the Iowa School Board Association had sent notification to boards to include tobacco look-alike products in policies.
“It’s been the board’s procedure to follow such recommendations,” said Sathoff.
Sheets said Metcalf had told fellow committee members in April he would not support adding tobacco look-alike products.
The policy under consideration May 19 involves keeping a tobacco-free environment at extra-curricular activities and sporting events. It applies to school district facilities and grounds, and school vehicles as being off limits for all tobacco products and tobacco look-alikes.
“This requirement extends to students, employees and visitors. This policy applies at all times, including school-sponsored and non-school-sponsored events. Persons failing to abide by this request shall be required to cease use of their tobacco product or leave the school district premises immediately.”
Metcalf said some adults might be using e-cigarettes to help withdraw from tobacco and nicotine products.
Among the other policies approved for a first reading at the May 19 school board meeting were policies about employee physical exams and employee injury on the job.
Sheets informed the board in the past months the district’s workman compensation incidents had been increasing. She researched various options for the district about bringing costs down.
“We’ve been talking about naming the Occupational Health Clinic at Ottumwa Regional Health Center as our preferred provider for workman’s compensation claims,” Sheets wrote in a memo May 12 to the board in the May 19 information packet. “We’ve also talked to the clinic about handling all of our pre-employment physicals.”
The policies now specify the Occupational Health Clinic in Ottumwa as the district’s preferred provider for employee physicals, at the district’s expense; and for workman’s compensation cases. Any serious injury, illness or treatment that should not wait until the next day, employees can seek treatment at Jefferson County Health Center or the nearest emergency medical facility.
The previous designated medical facilities — Medical Arts Clinic PC in Fairfield and Fairfield Clinic PC, are no longer the district’s designated providers for injuries on the job or employee physicals.
Sathoff asked the board to still perform its annual review of him even though he is leaving the district June 30.
“Though I’m leaving the district, I still value your feedback and look forward to having the opportunity to discuss evaluation results with you,” he said.
Sathoff said that prior to the start of this school year he’d drafted goals in his Independent Professional Development Plan, and reviewed those goals with the board.
“I added a goal based on board input then brought the goals back for approval,” he said.
The superintendent goals were well aligned with the board goals constructed and adopted, said Sathoff.
“I reported progress on my goals in December,” he said. “Mid-year, I invited all district staff to complete an anonymous evaluation of me, based on Iowa Standards for School Leaders and my personal goals.”
Sathoff provided board members with results of the anonymous evaluations and his reflections on ways he’s met the ISSL goals and a review of his professional development plan to help the board in its evaluation.
No changes in high school
Fairfield High School Principal Aaron Becker reported after reviewing the master schedule with other staff at the high school in the past months, it was decided to not make changes.
A committee looked at having seven classes per day, a trimester schedule and a block schedule.
“None of those changes met all the challenges we discussed,” said Becker. “A different schedule might meet one need, but created another. The conversation changed to what can we do within the day we have.
“The eight-period day was 90 percent of people’s first or second choice. We’ll stay with what we’re doing and look at tweaks.”
Board member Jerry Nelson, who attended senior exit interviews, said he heard students say an hour-long shop class wasn’t long enough.
In other news:
• Fairfield Community School District received an A-plus, stable rating for its credit profile from Standard & Poor’s Rating Services. The stable outlook reflects expectations that sales tax revenues will be sufficient to maintain at least adequate coverage on all school district parity bonds — even if the district issues additional debt — due to the restrictions of the additional bond tests, according to the report Sathoff shared with the board.
“In our opinion, credit quality could be impaired to the extent state wide sales tax collections or student enrollment decreases beyond current projections, leading to lower-than-expected coverage f debt service payments,” continued the report.
It did note that Fairfield enrollment has been declining, but not to a worrisome point.
“We are the only district with declining enrollment that received an A-plus rating,” said Sathoff.
• McElwee said the district has received a $5,000 grant for 30-plus trees to plant on school grounds. A variety of species will be planted around Pence and Washington elementary schools and Fairfield Middle School.
“We’ll work collaboratively with the city on the right-of-ways,” he said.
• The district’s summer lunch program will begin July 14 to coincide with summer school.
The lunches are free to anyone up through age 18, and will be served at the middle school this summer and run one additional week past summer school, through Aug. 8.