Social media concerns prompt Harklerode to explain Smart Pass
Siuslaw School Board discusses hiring process, honors long serving staff
Sept. 21, 2022 — The Siuslaw School District Board of Directors gathered for its regular monthly meeting Sept. 14, with all directors in attendance. No major decisions were made by the board, but important discussions were held.
Board Chair Bob Sneddon said he had seen some community discussion on social media that concerned him. He got straight to the point when asking Siuslaw High Principal Mike Harklerode about the situation.
“Do we really microchip the students before they go to the restroom?” asked Sneddon, repeating what he’d read on Facebook.
Harklerode explained there was a new program that may be causing the concern. He said that for “generations,” a student would get a hall pass by signing out on a clipboard in their classroom. A new system, called Smart Pass, allows students to sign out using their Chromebook computers. Students still need teachers’ permission, but the pass is generated electronically.
This also allows administrators to create a data base that can be helpful in a few situations.
“We are able to track student data because some of the problems we have are students who will use a hall pass seven periods a day and that adds up,” said Harklerode. “We also have some students that we would be concerned having unstructured time together in the school. We can set restrictions that would block a student from obtaining a pass if another student concurrently has a pass. Sometimes these are couples who want to see each other in the middle of the fifth period. Sometimes those are people who might happen across each other by accident we'd like to keep apart.”
Harklerode explained the Smart Pass allows staff to put a timer on a student’s hall pass also.
In other business, an administrative rule (AR) was discussed that addressed how long an applicant to the district had to wait to reapply for a position after failing a pre-employment drug screen.
Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak recommended a 3-month waiting period.
“Just out of curiosity, are there drug tests after employment or only pre-employment?” inquired Director Brian Lacouture.
Grzeskowiak said that there are after-employment drug tests, in certain circumstances.
“If you appear to be impaired, there's an accident on site … there has to be a just cause for me to question an employee and test them,” he explained.
Chair Sneddon added that bus drivers are an exception as they are regularly tested.
Director Diana Pimlott did not think Grzeskowiak’s recommendation was long enough.
“A little concerned about the three-month window,” said Pimlott. “I don't think that's a sufficient period of time from a failed drug test, particularly if we don't have a mandated drug testing.”
A discussion began as to what a sufficient window of time would be.
“One year,” responded Pimlott.
Chair Sneddon and directors Frank Armendariz and Kady Sneddon all voiced their disagreement.
“I think that's excessive personally,” said Chair Sneddon. “Especially when we're having a hard time recruiting and retaining people but I understand where you're coming from. I really do.”
Grzeskowiak offered a compromise, inquiring about six months.
This raised more questions.
“Are you doing this a lot?” asked K. Sneddon.
According to the superintendent, they will be monitoring it this year but the answer appears to be “yes” and it’s for a specific reason.
“We're taking data on it this year, because it's becoming more of an issue because ‘certain things’ are legal in the state where they're not legal at the federal level,” Grzeskowiak said. “Even having a pre-employment drug screening test is about 50/50 in districts across the state. So, if six months is a better window … it’s an administrative rule. I can write it right here at the table.”
Director Maureen Miltenberger went on record as saying she supported three months. Director John Barnett said he’d like to defer this decision to someone with a medical background, but that he didn’t have a problem with a year or six months.
“I also would be fine with a year or the six-month compromise,” said Lacouture.
Chair Sneddon instructed Grzeskowiak to work with Pam Hickson, the district’s HR specialist, to gather some data on the matter and present it to the board in the future.
Pimlott used this discussion to segue to another point she wanted to make.
“I would like an opportunity for the board to participate in some of the recruitment interviews,” she said.
Grzeskowiak explained there were reasons why the board isn’t involved in the hiring of district staff.
“Our OSBA [Oregon School Board Association] contact has said that is a bad idea,” the superintendent explained. “The board ends up being the body that confers the contract, then when I move to terminate the contract, you’re the appeal to the termination.”
Chair Sneddon shared his perspective on the matter.
“We hire him [the superintendent] to make those decisions,” he said. “We draw up the policy. I think it’s totally inappropriate for us to be involved in selecting and hiring staff.”
Pimlott felt the opposite.
“I do disagree with that,” she said. “I think we should have a voice and participate.”
The chair noted Pimlott’s disagreement.
Typically, staff members new to the district are introduced at one of the first board meetings of the year and this year was that meeting, with 23 people welcomed by the board.
Also honored were those with extended service with the district: Kyle Lewis and Andy Marohl for 15 years, Ethan Dougherty for 25 and Cindi Ramsey for 30.
Siuslaw senior Jacob Blankenship, creator of the increasingly popular @siuslawathletics Instagram page, was given the honor of leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
Harklerode explained what led him to choosing the Siuslaw High senior for the honor.
“Jake is kind of an ambassador of school spirit,” said Harklerode. “He organizes themes and colors for all of our home games. If you see kids all wearing white, like they were at volleyball last night, or wearing Hawaiian shirts like they were a football last week, that's Jake's doing.”
Other discussions included when Barnett pointed out that, upon reviewing the middle and high school handbooks, there appeared to be a discrepancy between the two when it comes to how a student becomes eligible to participate in extracurricular activities.
The board agreed to discuss the matter next meeting.
Directors Armendariz, Miltenberger and K. Sneddon agreed to be the committee that would review applicants for potential student members of the board. The board had previously decided that this year they would add two students as non-voting school board members.
To watch the September meeting in full, visit youtu.be/3qWoo88JSc4
The board meets on the second Wednesday of each month, with the next scheduled for Oct. 12 at 6 p.m.
For more information on the Siuslaw School District, go to www.siuslaw.k12.or.us.