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Petersburg: Board puts off talk about student rules

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2002

The Petersburg School Board avoided discussion of the high school's No Way List policy Tuesday night, saying the topic would be better addressed during a policy review of student regulations, which board members said won't take place until this winter.

The No Way List prohibits students with missing work or slipping grades from attending the upcoming weekend's activities or traveling with sports teams until assignments are turned in. Several parents have written letters to the Petersburg Pilot newspaper complaining of what they feel is unfair implementation of the policy.

"We will be going through that whole document (of student regulations) this year and the schedule for the student section will be somewhere in December or possibly some time in January," said board Vice President Liz Bacom.

The policy manual, the board decided later in the evening, would be reviewed in sections during board work sessions.

Some parents have formed Concerned Parents for School Improvement, and recently hired John Havrilek as a mediator to address the No Way List, among other concerns. Parents remained silent at the board meeting, though a letter and a list of concerns were submitted by Havrilek. The concerns include charges that the No Way List "is discriminating and ostracizes students" and says parents "feel they are talking to a Chief of Police rather than an educator."

The list of concerns also said prohibiting students from participating in school activities could encourage them to find other, less wholesome outlets.

One parent submitted a letter of support to the board, stating, "Collectively you provide me with great tools, consistent standards of expected behavior, and consistency of supervision."

The board acknowledged the letters but did not discuss them. High school Principal Dick Montgomery, who has received the brunt of the criticism and praise surrounding the No Way List discussion, remained silent until later in the evening.

High school teachers, however, addressed the issue head-on with a letter signed by every member of the high school and middle school staff, and with a presentation. In their letter of support staff members said "The current attack on the No Way List is misguided and uninformed."

English teacher Sue Hardin spoke first, explaining the way the list works. Students who have outstanding assignments or slipping grades are informed on Wednesday and must have the work completed by the end of school Friday. If the work is not completed, students miss out on that weekend's activities. The list, which is coded with no names given, is posted in the hallway each week.

Librarian Lynn Forcella presented graphs showing a steady decline in the number of students on the list since last year. "We've gone from 67 students with 128 midterm reports (overdue) to 23 students and 26 midterm reports," said Forcella.

As a result of the list, "Every day, I know where every one of my students are in relationship to their work out, and where they're having trouble," said principal Montgomery.

"This staff I've asked to do another 30 percent more work because they have to go through their grade book daily. That's something that most high school teachers don't do in this country, and this staff is willing to do it because they care about the kids," he said.

New wrestling coach Thomas Cox described the list as "a really great tool for me and for these kids," saying it helped to keep every member of his team competing. Despite the variety of academic skill levels on his team, said Cox, "I have 35 wrestlers, all of whom are academically eligible."

High school science teacher Vic Trautman stated his case simply, throwing the four-page list of missing student assignments from the inception of the program on an overhead projector, then replacing them with the dramatically streamlined, one-page list that teachers claim is now the norm.

"We've had a huge number of changes in the last seven years," said Trautman, referring to several academic innovations, including the No Way List, "and as we're finding out in Petersburg, change is a painful process."



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