BENNINGTON — The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Policy Committee on Monday discussed limits on children in the classroom, changes to make the child abuse reporting policy more clear, and the SU's condom availability policy, which has yet to be approved by the North Bennington board.
This is not the first time the policy committee has discussed changes to the Optimum Class Size policy, with the goal of eliminating specific numbers above and below which a class cannot run, and giving the administration more flexibility to ensure that students are getting the best education possible, within budget limits.
"It gives us what we want, as board members, to make sure that having one, two, three, four, or five students in a class, versus a normal class size of 16 to 20, but if there is a real need for one, because of Flexible Pathways, and the principal and the superintendent see that this is what's got to happen, then we have the option to be able to do that as well," said policy committee chairman and Mount Anthony representative Leon Johnson.
At the last meeting of the North Bennington Prudential Committee, on May 11, board members voted to table discussion on the Condom Availability policy until they had more information about the administrative regulations that would accompany it.
"Reading through it, it doesn't seem like a good policy to me," said North Bennington board member Timothy Schroeder, at that meeting, "It's not even much of a policy. It seems like at every level someone could make their own decision, without guidance. Right now, this policy says schools can do whatever they want. That isn't a policy."
All the other member districts of the supervisory union have approved the policy.
"The board is responsible for policy," responded Johnson at Monday's meeting, "not mandating the administrative regs. We ask that the administrative regs be prepared so that we can see them and understand that they comply with the specifications, but we shouldn't be holding the policy up because the regs weren't put into place."
"My concern," said John Bullock, North Bennington's representative on the policy committee, "was that the policy as written is very vague. I couldn't understand how the policy would work without seeing the administrative regs. With this particular policy, no matter where it's implemented, it's always a cause for controversy, so I think it's important for this committee to be absolutely clear what the policy would look like. We owe it to the community to really describe how this would work."
Bullock suggested that a subcommittee be formed to look at the policy.
"Time is a consideration, and the high school was wanting to start this as soon as possible," said assistant superintendent Donna Leep, "This policy has to come before they can start. If we start over it will have to make the rounds to all the boards again."
SVSU technology director Frank Barnes suggested they could address Bullock's concerns in the administrative regs, which can be altered by the administration without approval from all the boards. Mount Anthony could then move forward with implementing the policy, and the changes could be formalized in the policy next year. The committee agreed to this idea.
In regards to the Policy #5005, which had previously been titled Child Abuse and Neglect, Johnson at the committee's last meeting had assigned Shaftsbury representative Holly Bahan and Career Development Center representative Bruce Lee-Clark to re-write that policy. In the meantime, he said, the committee should consider making non-substantive changes to the current policy, so that it can be correct and on the books while a new policy is being drafted. Those changes included changing the name of the policy to Reporting Abuse and Neglect, and updating the information on who should be contacted. Those changes would not need to be approved by all the boards of the SVSU, while a re-writing of the policy would.
Bahan said she disagreed with Johnson's approach. "(The policy) is wrong," she said, "That's why we did the work on the new policy, and you're trying to keep the old one, and that's not right."
"We had a policy that had the wrong (organization's) name and number," explained Johnson, "That has to change, so we can keep a policy in place. At the same time, we wanted to have a group, a committee, go out and look at other things that may need to be considered for the policy and re-write it. We're not there with that yet. That's the second part."
"We should not be putting out a policy that's muddying the waters," said Bahan, "It should say, a person that has a suspicion makes the call. That's it. And we (she and Lee-Clark) did that in this one, but I guess your directive was to put the old one back, with all the stuff we said needed to go. I understand clearly."
The committee agreed to make those updates to the current policy, but decided to hold off discussion on Bahan and Lee-Clark's draft policy until its next meeting, in September, as several of the committee members had not yet had a chance to read it.
The full recording of this meeting is available on Catamount Access Television and on the CAT-TV YouTube Page.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.