One by one, or more appropriately, load by load, the Dothan City School board has passed dump trucks of major changes.
Some parents say there are getting whiplash from all the changes as they struggle to prepare for the incoming semester. Some are getting the brunt of many major switch-ups: new school, new drop-off and pick-up times, re-institution of uniform policies for high school students…
While parents may agree that these changes are necessary and overdue, some parents are expressing the desire for the school board to slow down until they get accustomed to the changes.
The impact these changes are having on parents with inflexible work schedules, especially single parents, truly cannot be understated.
Perhaps one of the hottest topics, an initial draft of a strict cell phone policy, is causing concern for many parents. It reads: “The use of personal, wireless communication devices by K-12 students is prohibited on school grounds or while students are being transported on a school bus.” The current draft does not make an exception for outside school hours.
The policy specifically states that electronic communication devices of any kind including smart watches and activity trackers like a FitBit will be applicable to the rule.
“Parents and students should understand that these rules are necessary because these devices cause distraction in the classroom, on school property, and at on-campus sponsored activities. Also, these devices impede school safety (for example, during lock-down drills and bomb threats),” the draft of the policy reads.
The current draft is based on a recommendation from Scott Faulk, director of safety, security, and attendance and a cell phone policy committee made up of parents, teachers, and administrators.
“I have a student that is in a number of after-school activities and he has a job,” one parent commented on Facebook. “Things change out of the blue sometimes, and calling the schools trying to get a message to either of them was never successful for me. Most times when I called, I either would get no answer, or the message never got to them.”
Faulk hosted two meetings for parents or students who wanted to attend to discuss the cell phone policy before the July 11 work session, one at 10 a.m. and another that began at 5:10 p.m., but only 14 parents showed.
Some parents said the times made it difficult for them to attend, while others said they did not know there was a meeting.
“The choice of time to hold the meetings is not fair for working parents but it is what it is,” one user wrote on their Facebook page.
DCS did post a survey on its Facebook page soliciting parents’ thoughts on cell phone usage in schools and attracted over 670 responses. However, at least two parents said they felt the “yes” or “no” format was restrictive and questions were leading.
Board Chairman Mike Schmitz did say they will hold another public meeting to discuss the cell phone policy before a final proposal is formed and up for a vote.
Some parents say they just can’t keep up with all the changes being made, and don’t know how to be a part of the conversation, leaving them unsure how to prepare for the coming year with the constant adjustments.
Even employees of the system are having a hard time staying informed. While DCS signed a contract with Kelly Services for substitute staffing nearly a month ago, one sub said she was only recently notified she needed to be re-hired under the staffing company.
“Pretty messed up for substitutes to find out through FACEBOOK that their job is having major changes,” she wrote in a comment. “When does DCS plan on contacting their employees directly? Unprofessional, DCS.”
A DCS representative did respond in the comments that they should have received an email last week, but the sub said she never received it.
All meetings and announcements are usually posted on the Dothan City School website, although some parents said it was confusing to navigate to find the information they were looking for – specifically what topics are on the agenda to be discussed.
To stay informed, you can attend public work sessions usually held on the second Thursday of every month at 2 p.m. at the Beverlye Intermediate School auditorium. Board meetings are held generally on the third Monday of every month at 5 p.m. in the same place.
Agendas are usually posted up to a week, but sometimes days, before the meetings take place on the DCS website. Under the Departments tab, click “Board of Education Information.” On the left side, you will find a calendar of upcoming meetings, a link to the agendas, and contact information for your board members. Specially-called meetings are posted as they come up.
Meetings appear regularly in the Dothan Eagle. DCS also regularly posts updates and general information on its Facebook page.
Chalk Talk, an education notebook compiled by education beat reporter Sable Riley, appears each weekend in the Dothan Eagle and at dothaneagle.com.