By ASHLEY AMASON
Prior to the Walton County School Board (WCSB) meeting June 21, it held a workshop to discuss granting an easement for a communication tower in the Northeast quadrant of Freeport High School (FHS). The tower would be used by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) for emergency communication, and possibly subleased to cell phone carriers.
Maj. Bill Chapman and Capt. Joe Preston of the WCSO attended the workshop to thank the board for its cooperation and explain the tower’s infrastructure. “It’s refreshing to work with another intergovernmental agency [that is…] open-minded,” Preston said.
Preston explained the Legislature mandated narrow banding by Jan. 1, 2013, “forcing everyone to narrowband their frequencies so we can put more users on the system.” The mandate comes under the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System, which the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) joined in 2008 at a cost of $1.2 million. S.L.E.R.S, as it’s called, “is a single, unified radio network that meets the radio voice communications needs of state law enforcement officers and other participating agencies throughout the state” according to www.myflorida.com.
The site explains S.L.E.R.S is funded by credits for equipment from Harris Corporation, which was paid a $40 million advance payment for contract services, and receives “on-going proceeds from motor vehicle and vessel registration surcharge (approximately $15-18 million annually).”
Preston explained FHS was chosen because it meets the system engineering requirements and provides the best in-school coverage. “[We will] limit the footprint as much as possible,” he said.
The school district’s contract with the BCC would grant an easement to place the tower, but retains ownership of the property. According to Preston, the BCC will contract with a third party that would front the funds for tower construction then charge a monthly fee and sublease the tower to a communications carrier such as Verizon.
In the regular WCSB meeting, the motion to approve the easement passed 4-0, board member Mark Davis recusing himself as his law firm represents the WCSO.
Supt. Carlene Anderson announced Freeport High School received the Class 2-A Fred E. Rozelle Sportsmanship Award for the fourth time in a decade, “a record that no one in the Panhandle can match” she said. FHS came in third in the boys’ and sixth overall in the Floyd E. Lay Sunshine Cup All-Awards Program for Class 2-A public schools. At Paxton School, Kristen Cuchens and Shaq Jackson were recognized by the All-Sports Association Daily News as players of the year, and Coach Steve Williams as coach of the year.
No one came forward to speak in the public hearings for the student progression plan or code of conduct. The student progression plan passed unanimously, while the code of conduct received numerous motions for amendment from Davis. In the section regarding unexcused absences Davis motioned to amend the language to state any student missing more than 15 days in 90 calendar days will be recommended for expulsion. WCSB Attorney Ben Holley cautioned, “If [it were to be] challenged, I’m not sure it’s basis for expulsion.” Davis replied, “I’m willing to take the risk.” Vice-Chairman Dennis Wallace provided a second. Chairperson Sharon Roberts countered, “We’re in the business to educate children, not put them out of school where they can’t receive an education.”
The motion carried 4-1, Roberts objecting.
Unanimous approval was given for Davis’ motion to add a bullet-point under unexcused absences for voluntary travel, noting any voluntary travel that exceeds three days without prior administrative permission will be unexcused. Davis said the motion arose after speaking with teachers who were unable to effectively prepare because of the amount of make-up work they had to oversee. Davis specifically referenced families who take students out of school the week prior to spring break, resulting in a two-week holiday.
Davis then motioned to amend the language to strike the word “may” and replace it with “shall,” regarding a student having excused absences in excess of 10 days due to illness, noting the principal shall require a physician’s (or medical related personnel’s) note. Davis said the amendment was the result of attending a social function with a teacher, whose student had an excused absence for illness that day, but was in attendance at the function. The superintendent as well as Assistant Principal Charlie Morse said they supported the motion. Wallace gave a second, and the motion carried 4-1, Roberts objecting.
Board member Faye Leddon then changed her vote on the verbiage amendment, resulting in a 3-2 ruling.
The final item Davis discussed, although he did not make a motion, was requiring elective non-emergency surgery to be unexcused. Davis recalled a situation in which a student was absent during the school week prior to winter holidays for a cosmetic procedure so as not to interrupt holiday vacation. Anderson said she was aware of such instances, particularly with cosmetic procedures such as nose jobs and breast augmentations, but declared, “I don’t see it happening very often…and [that] would put a serious burden on [principals] to make a call to a physician to determine if it is elective or non-elective.” Anderson emphasized it would be difficult to enforce due to medical privacy policies and obtaining parents’ consent to contact their child’s physician.
Roberts pointed out a cosmetic procedure could warrant a physician’s note from a mental health professional claiming the surgery was non-elective. “Not being pretty may be an illness for some folks,” she said.
No action was taken….
Read the full story in the June 30, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.