School board OKs new handbook

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 30, 2000

Lincoln County School District students will still face apenalty for excessive unexcused absences, but there will be nodeduction from their final grades, school board members decidedThursday.

The new school handbook policy concerning unexcused absencesstates students will receive an academic penalty of zero for classparticipation and will not receive a grade higher than 70 on anymake-up work as a result of an unexcused absence. A handbookcommittee had orginally recommended a deduction from students’final grade for excessive unexcused absences.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Leanne Wing, who reported theresults of the handbook committee, explained to board members howvital attendance is in providing a quality education.

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“We just want to stress the importance of attendance and we wantstudents and parents to know unexcused absences can lead to anacademic penalty,” she said.

The handbook committee hopes the tactic will promote attendanceat the county schools, said Wing.

The committee had originally decided to take two points off astudent’s final grade for each unexcused absence over the limit,which is two unexcused absences per semester. Any absence withoutproper documentation, such as a doctor’s excuse, will be consideredunexcused, according to the new handbook.

The handbook further states that three tardies within anine-week period will result in an unexcused absence.

Other rules to receive more attention by school faculty includeseveral aspects of the dress code, which is a growing concernacross the nation.

Shorts, which are defined as pants above the knees, will not beallowed in the schools. However, students are allowed to wear pantsthat fall between the knee and foot, including the popular Capripants.

Board members also pointed out the need to have principals andteachers enforce rules pertaining to clothing that improperlyexposes body parts. Sleeveless shirts with extremely wide arm holesand low-cut shirts were among those discussed.

Board President James Keen pointed out that sagging pants,although they are prohibited, are still a common sight in schools.The pants, which often expose a student’s undergarments, can causedistractions in the educational atmosphere.

Students will also have stricter rules in the area of academicexemptions following a decision by the handbook committee, whichconsisted of teachers, parents and students, to change therequirements.

In previous years, students have been awarded exemption fromfinal exams for having A’s and B’s as yearly averages. Now studentswill have to make the grades, and keep up a good discipline recordto be dismissed from final exams.

The handbook now states that any student will lose exemptionprivileges for a course if the student has an unexcused absence, anunexcused tardy or a detention or discipline form in the class forthe year.

Wing and board members stood behind the committee’sdecision.

“I think we’re doing our children an injustice by not makingthem take tests because they need to take them to prepare forcollege,” said Wing.

More will be expected of students in other academic areas aswell. The handbook committee opted to increase the number of unitsneeded to graduate from high school. The classes of 2001, 2002 and2003 will only be required to successfully complete 22 units, whilelater classes will be required to gain 24 units in high schoolbefore graduating.

Wing pointed out to board members that such an increase was notunusual around the state, citing Franklin County’s requirement of26 units. She said the increase will help students by increasingtheir knowledge. The request for an increase was also made bynumerous teachers.

“Our teachers are saying we need to ask more of our students,”said Wing.

Other changes concerning graduation requirements included boardmembers objecting to a policy stating seniors who completerequirements early, such as in December, not be allowed toparticipate in graduation ceremonies.

Board members Randall Lofton and Joann Holmes believed the rulewas a “little harsh” for students who worked extra hard to get outof high school early, many of whom go to college after completingnecessary high school credits.

“I know we had some who graduated early last year and I thinkthey should be able to participate in graduation,” said Holmes.

Wing pointed out the reasoning behind the rule was to discouragestudents from leaving high school in less than four years.

“We discourage them to graduate early and we’re encouraging themto take more classes,” said Wing, adding that some students haveregretted the decision to graduate early.

She also said students who finished requirements early and leftschool, but came back to participate in graduation ceremonies hadscheduling conflicts that caused them to miss graduation practices.This caused confusion during graduation ceremonies.

Board members believed that was a good point and decided to havesomething pertaining to graduation practices in the handbook.

“I wouldn’t have a problem with them being in graduation as longas they attend practice,” said Lofton.

The superintendent of education, Perry Miller, agreed with boardmembers comments.

“I think if a kid completes the requirements to graduate, thenhe’s earned the right to participate in graduation ceremonies,” hesaid.

However, early graduates will not be allowed to participate inother senior activities, such as school trips, because schoolofficials no longer have authority over the students. They canattend their senior prom, though, if they are invited by a studentenrolled in the school.

Other matters discussed during last night’s meeting consisted offederal funding applications, mapping out a long range plan forMississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) expenditures andawarding a high school diploma to a World War II veteran.

Letha Presley presented for approval several applications forfunding of school programs during the meeting. After a shortdiscussion, board members approved all applications.

During the next five years, the school district plans toaccomplish several improvement projects at each school, includingpaving at Loyd Star, a new library at West Lincoln and a new rooffor the Bogue Chitto gymnasium. The projects will be made possibledue to funds from MAEP.

Board members reviewed the long term plan and approved itunanimously.

Thomas Wesley Thornhill, 75, will receive a high school diplomasoon after board members elected to award the World War II veterana diploma for service to this country during his high schoolyears.

Coaching changes approved during last night’s meeting consistedof hiring Theodore “Bo” Black as high school boys basketball coachat Bogue Chitto, Jason Case as high school boys and girlsbasketball coach at West Lincoln, Anita Wilson as assistantsoftball coach at West Lincoln and Andrew Redd as head baseball andhead softball coach at West Lincoln. Randy Laird will move fromBogue Chitto to his native school, West Lincoln, where he will bethe assistant football and junior high baseball coach.

The next scheduled school board meeting is at 5:30 p.m., July17, in the central office, located on Monticello Street. This willbe the only meeting of the month, due to the first regular meetingfalling on a holiday.