School board bans corporal punishment, adopts 5-year security plan, outsources some custodial services

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comApril 22, 2013 

As expected at Monday night's meeting, the Muscogee County School Board banned corporal punishment, adopted a five-year security plan and outsourced custodial services at its middle schools and high schools.

The Ledger-Enquirer already has reported about these issues, and those recommendations from interim superintendent John Phillips remained the same Monday night.

Corporal punishment

Georgia and Alabama are among 19 states that still allow corporal punishment (paddling) as a discipline tool in schools. Muscogee County is the only local school district to ban it.

Phillips has said research and statistical data now support other ways to punish misbehavior. He listed several points of evidence, including:

• Poor children, minorities, children with disabilities and boys are hit more frequently in schools, sometimes at two-to-five times the rate of other children.

• Corporal punishment has been abolished in more than 100 nations.

• Corporal punishment teaches children that violence is a way to solve problems.

• Corporal punishment of children is related to decreased internalization of moral rules, increased aggression, more antisocial behavior, increased criminality, decreased mental health outcomes, increased adult abusive behaviors, and increased risk of being victimized by abusive relationships in adulthood.

The board unanimously approved the paddling ban. District 1 representative Pat Hugley Green was the only board member to comment about the new policy during Monday's meeting. She reminded the administration to provide school officials with professional development to find alternative punishments.

Security plan

No total cost estimate is in the plan because the funding will be requested in each budget year, the task force's chairman, district chief administrative assistant Gary Gibson, has said. But he added during the April 8 work sesssion "agencies are willing to do this for us free of charge in the next 90 days."

Those short-term components of the plan include:

• Panic buttons will be installed at three pilot sites.

• The Georgia Emergency Management Agency will conduct safety assessments at each school.

• Safety training will be given to two employees at each school.

• Active shooter/threat plan will be distributed to all schools.

• Columbus State University communication department will produce a training video.

• Public safety officials will conduct a tabletop exercise with principals.

• Practice drills will start in October at the schools.

Interim superintendent John Phillips said in January he was wary of "knee-jerk reactions" in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But he also wanted the horrific event to motivate the district to analyze its security. So he appointed Gibson to lead such a task force.

Three months later, after four formal meetings and other subcommittee meetings, the 21-member task force completed the initial five-year security plan. The plan calls for reviews each year. The task force also recommends another five-year plan be developed during the fiscal year 2019 budgetary process.

The board's major critique of the plan voiced April 8 was the recommendation to create in fiscal year 2016 a new position: safety coordinator for an estimated cost of $50,000, which would cover salary, benefits and vehicle.

Green noted then that the system already has a security director, Scott Thomann, and wondered aloud, "How would we repurpose or use what we currently have?"

District 4 representative Naomi Buckner asked about that proposed position Monday night, and Phillips said the administration eliminated it from the plan to save money in the next budget year, which he expects to be "probably the worst ever."

"My priority is to not have furlough days," he said. "I have not backed off that."

The board unanimously approved the plan.

Current security measures already include:

• Annual safety audits performed at each location.

• Crisis response plans updated annually at each location.

• Cameras and surveillance equipment are being installed at each school.

• Limited door access technology is being installed at each school.

Outsourcing

The board approved the administration's recommendation to save a projected $6,282,550 over five years by outsourcing the custodial services at the district's 21 middle and high schools.

Those schools have a combined 147 custodians. That means 94 of those positions will be outsourced to private companies. The district has 32 custodian positions vacant elsewhere in the district, so 62 will be without people jobs, unless the administration delivers on its intention to find them elsewhere.

Cathy Williams, the nine-member board's lone county-wide representative, said, "I'm going to hold them to their word."

New principal

The board approved the promotion of Northside High School assistant principal Teresa Lawson to principal of Midland Middle School. She will replace Richard Green, who was appointed principal of the district's newest school, Aaron Cohn Middle School, which will open when the next academic year starts.

Lawson has worked in MCSD for 17 years. She taught at Hannan Elementary Magnet Academy (August 1996 to May 2000) and Midland (August 2000 to December 2000). She was an instructional technology specialist for the district (January 2001 to May 2007) and assistant principal at since then at Northside, where she also was athletic director (August 2007 to May 2008).

Retirements

In addition to Dawson Elementary School principal Denise Perryman, whose pending retirement the Ledger-Enquirer already reported, four more elementary school principals plan to finish their MCSD careers this summer:

• Beatrice Riley of Forrest Road.

• Mary Avery of Muscogee.

• Melana Cassell of Edgewood.

• Ann Crowder of Hannan.

Another administrator scheduled to retire is student services director Mike Hudson.

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