Dr. Arthur Update Supply Donations/School Board

20 Aug, 2020

Jayne Burke

Good morning,
 
I received a number of questions in the last week that I’d like to answer for everyone all at one time.
 
Why is the School Board Meeting online this month?  Are you cutting out public speaking?
 
We decided to hold the School Board meeting online again as a precaution, not to have any more people than necessary in groups, as we try to get school re-started.  Myself, my team, our teachers, the Board, are all trying to practice safety measures and do our best to stay distanced so we don’t inadvertently cause spread.  We’ve all had to change our practices.  While I understand other public entities have decided to go back to in-person meetings, you should expect that our Board Meetings may go back and forth between in-person and online depending on whether we have students present in school.  This is always reflected at the top of the agenda each month.  We are not changing anything regarding opportunities to public speak.  We will follow the same policies that have been in place prior to the pandemic.  Public participation will simply be through the internet instead of physically at the CEC.  Please see the next question for more information.
 
How do I speak at a School Board Meeting? 
 
I personally believe it is the duty of the Board and my duty to hear the concerns of those interested in our school district.  I welcome this participation as does the board so long as the speakers follow the approved policies on speaking given this is an official legal meeting.  There are longstanding School Board policies that drive when a member of the public can speak at a meeting.  This isn’t unlike any other school district or public meeting.  There are two ways in which you may be able to provide your opinion on a matter.
 
1)  If there is a topic on the agenda that you wish to speak to, you may physically sign up at the meeting in person before the meeting starts.  We always have an employee standing at the door with a sheet you will need to complete.  You will need to indicate who you are and what specific item you wish to speak to.  You will not be permitted to talk if your concern doesn’t directly relate to an agenda item.  “Other” is not a topic.  During times in which we have to hold an online meeting (primarily during the pandemic) you can complete this same process by emailing the individual listed on the notice or on our Board Meeting webpage.  At this time that person is [email protected]msdmartinsville.org.  She will communicate with you directly on how to join our online meeting for your public speaking portion.  
 
2)  A second way you can participate in a School Board meeting is by sending an email or a written request to me directly “superintendent per the policy” at least 10 days prior to the meeting date.  I am then responsible for sharing that with the President of the School Board and she will determine if the Board wishes to entertain a topic that is not otherwise on the agenda for that month.  Whatever topic that you request, assuming it is approved, is the only topic you will be permitted to speak about during the Board Meeting.  
 
All public speaking has time limits and varies depending on which way you wish to request time from the Board.  I would ask that you refer to our website for more information on these policies.
 
We are happy to clarify any questions you may still have after you’ve taken a look at the policy on our website.  
 
Why did you start on Red when staff have had months to prepare, what data are you using to determine the color of the plan and what should we expect in the weeks to come?

I use multiple pieces of information to make decisions regarding the plan color.  I mentioned at the time we chose to shift to Red that community spread, both in Morgan County and Statewide were on the rise.  These are just two of several variables I considered at that time.  The week before school started we had a number of staff who had family members who were positive at home.  This forced me to put several people in a quarantine situation right at the start of school.  Thankfully we’ve had no cases of COVID thus far with people working for our district, rather all the cases have been spouses and close family members.  In the last week ALL employees of the district have had additional training on practices for reducing spread and keeping viral loads as minimal as possible through mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing and cleaning.  While our staff that works year-round had access to this information and the in depth training we’ve done, teachers were not yet required to report and therefore I felt I needed to slow things down for a few weeks, give staff the opportunity to learn the new expectations.  I also felt very strongly that bringing in our students as an experiment to see if we ended up with massive spread was not a smart approach for our district.  I understand everyone does not agree with this approach, but as a much wiser person than I posted on social media, “I’ll only know I did too little if I don’t do too much.”  No one is perfect, this plan is not perfect, it’s meant to keep people safe.  I feel like we are in much better shape as a district at this point and even though the spread continues both locally and statewide, I believe we have our quarantine practices down and can safely open based upon the schedule I put out the week before school began.  Assuming there are no major changes to data or to our staff wellness, we will transition to yellow on August 31st as planned.  Our person organizing our pandemic response, the Director of Student Services, is working diligently with our entire school community to support and work through exposures so we can get people back as quickly and as safely as possible.  This is our new normal. 
 
Did you send an email to teachers telling them they cannot solicit donations on the internet?  Do you make staff purchase from one supplier? How can we help teachers? 
 
An email went to principals reminding them of the following: 
More than two weeks ago teachers asked by way of the teachers’ union what they should do if they have things they need for their classroom this year, mostly due to the pandemic, that exceed the money they already receive for classroom supplies.  I responded during district discussion to the teachers’ union stating that if teachers have needs beyond the funds they have been allotted they need to work with their respective principal to make those purchases.  Principals have supply money at the building level and we additionally budgeted from federal CARES pandemic funds for this very purpose.  Additionally, more than two weeks ago I informed principals that they should be using their supply money for this very reason and that we at the district would replenish those funds as needed from CARES funds.  At no time have we asked teachers to spend excess personal money on things required due to the pandemic.  Currently there are policies on the books that require processes for accepting donations/gifts.  These policies directly relate to what is required of us as a governmental agency and are monitored by the State Board of Accounts.  If a group wants to work with us directly to figure out an approved way of donating items to classrooms, we would be happy to discuss this desire and put the required parameters in place to do so legally.
 
Additionally, we do not require teachers to use a certain supplier, as a matter of fact, across our district, we use hundreds of suppliers for various things based upon costs and availability.  We attempt to balance supporting local as well as making dollars stretch as much as possible. It’s a balance.  
 
It’s my hope that these additional answers will help resolve some concerns and ongoing rumors regarding our practices as a school district.
 
As always, please stay well!
 
Dr. Arthur