School board discusses buildings, grounds and more

Date Published: 
December 20, 2013

At the Indian River School Board’s Dec. 16 meeting, Rodney Layfield began his school safety update by recounting the Dec. 13 shooting incident at Arapahoe High School, near Denver, Colo. Within 80 seconds, a heavily-armed student entered the school, searching for a particular teacher; a janitor initiated a lockdown, and upon hearing that a sheriff’s deputy/school resource officer was coming, the student took his own life, having already shot another student.

“An evil-doer was met by a do-gooder with a weapon,” Layfield said. “At Virginia Tech, every 7 seconds, a student died.”

Layfield praised the school district for hiring armed safety monitors (all former police officers) to help deter crime, even though some questioned the cost.

“I don’t think there is a cost you can put on lives,” Layfield said.

Although IRSD hoped to be the first district to complete a state-mandated comprehensive school safety plan, Laurel was chosen for the pilot program. Layfield reported that IR is “on the heels” of Laurel and will meet the Dec. 31 deadline for creating an electronic version of each school’s plans.

Board Member Donald Hattier noted that Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin had gotten emergency plans and blueprints for Lord Baltimore Elementary years ago. Layfield agreed and noted that state plans are very similar.

In other school safety news, swipe cards and secure entrances will soon be completed district-wide. Three vendors will soon submit proposals for emergency buttons, although more research is needed as how to tie into systems at schools.

Sussex Central High School was given unanimous approval at the Dec. 16 meeting for $15,000 in funding for wireless Internet installation on its sports fields. That will provide Wi-Fi for sports teams and agriculture classes, as well as providing Internet access to aid emergency safety plans in the event of an evacuation. IR High School already has outdoor Internet.

Buildings & Grounds had no updates on Verizon Wireless’s request to install antennas on Lord Baltimore Elementary. The district is still looking into other options, officials said.

Phillip C. Showell, Long Neck and North Georgetown elementary schools will get new storage pole barns in the next month.

Layfield encouraged citizens and district personnel to attend Buildings & Grounds meetings to see how the district spends taxpayers’ money, next on Jan. 13, 2014, at 6 p.m. at IR Education Center in Selbyville.

In other district news:

• Parent Lloyd Elling returned during public comments to share his continued displeasure with the current Indian mascot.

Although former principal Mark Steele once said the Indian is meant to convey pride, Elling said, “Students don’t understand how Indians can be perceived as offensive.”

But he said the current image is too generalized and one-sided, and therefore no different from blackface or a minstrel show.

“Which language did they speak? Which tribes wore feathers and why? How many people lived around here? What happened to them?” Elling asked. “If people cannot answer, then they may not understand the generalized mascot that they’re using. You’re playing ‘Indian.’”

Although history cannot be unlived, Elling said, things can improve, especially as Sussex Central has promoted the “Say no to racism” campaign.

• Nina Lou Bunting received a 2013 service award from the Delaware School Boards Association.

• James Hudson reported that the new IRSD publicity campaign has continued successfully with a television appearance and radio interview. He said the curriculum committee is working on developing appropriate consequences for teacher testing violations.

• The board unanimously approved the first and second readings of basic language changes to policies regarding summer school, public complaints, sexual conduct and non-discrimination. They also provided blanket approval to change all policies to make references to the superintendent gender-neutral (i.e. “the superintendent’s,” instead of “his or hers”).

The next Board of Education meeting will be Monday, Jan. 27, at Indian River High School at 7 p.m.