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School board meeting covers several areas

By DAVID GRAVELY
editor@southwesttimes.com

The most recent meeting of the Pulaski County School Board covered a wide range of topics, ranging from recognition of students and staff, to snacks allowed in school.

Ryan Camdon Gravley, a fifth grader at Dublin Elementary School, was recognized as a good citizen and led those gathered into the Pledge of Allegiance.

In the comments from DES, it stated, “Cam is a quiet young man who always uses his best manners. He is conscientious and helps other students in the building. When not at school, Cam helps care for his 11 pets, including 2 snakes. Cam’s parents are Kristi and Brandon Gravley. DES is proud to have Cam represent us this evening. He is an example of why Shamrocks ROCK!”

Mrs. Vicky Akers, a paraprofessional at Dublin Elementary School, was recognized as the Employee of the Month. The narrative from her award stated, “In her job as a paraprofessional, Mrs. Akers plays a huge role in her students’ success.  Mrs. Akers is well known for her big smile and big hugs!  Any student assigned to Mrs. Akers is shown unconditional love and acceptance.  She is an asset to our students and our larger school community.  Dublin Elementary School is proud to have Mrs. Vicky Akers represent our community as the Employee of the Month for Pulaski County Public Schools.”

Mrs. Shannon Blankenship was recognized as the Teacher of the Month. The narrative for her award stated, “Mrs. Blankenship quietly goes about her day, working diligently to ensure her students are successful and have a positive school experience. In addition to teaching a classroom of preschool students, she serves as an early childhood special education teacher and case manager. Mrs. Blankenship serves as a daily model of patience and kindness in all that she does. Her positive attitude serves as an example to her students and colleagues. Dublin Elementary School is proud to have Mrs. Blankenship represent the Shamrock community as our Teacher of the Month for Pulaski County Public Schools.”

The Senior of the Month for September is Elaja Braedyn Rollins. His award stated, “Elaja is the son of Myrissa Rollins of Pulaski. Elaja’s nominating teacher stated that he is a wonderful student who has come in with a positive attitude from bell to bell every single day since she first taught him as a freshman. Elaja works incredibly hard to overcome any obstacles in his way to achieving greatness as a student and inspires not only his peers, but also those that teach him as well. He has a special way of creating enthusiasm in others and his positivity is contagious. This outstanding young man is a true example of Cougar Pride. Upon graduation, Elaja plans to pursue a career in electrical or mechanical engineering. In his free time, he enjoys reading up on auto mechanics, working out and hanging out with his friends.”

Each of these students and faculty were recognized by Dr. Kevin Siers and the school board members with a certificate.

After the public comment portion of the meeting and the approval of the Aug. 10, 2021 meeting minutes, the board approved the agenda for the current meeting. The vote was taken for the approval of the consent agenda to pay the bills and then for approval of the personnel agenda concerning new employees, new substitutes and tutor recommendations, bus drivers and coaches. The personnel agenda also covered those employees who were separating from employment with PCPS.

After an Instructional Focus presentation was presented by DES Principal Ms. Elizabeth Webb, an Operations Update was provided by Jess Shull, Director of Transportation, Operations and Maintenance. The 2021-22 PCMS Athletic Handbook was presented as an informational item which will be voted on next week. The topic of the adoption of a future school calendar that allow coordination of learning loss programs was also discussed as an informational item.

The topic of Title III, Part A, 2021-22 Applications was up next. Dannah Card presented the information on the grant and a motion to approve the application was presented. The motion passed unanimously.

Ethelene Sadler, Director of School Nutrition, and Mary Hall, Supervisor of Nurses, presented a motion to approve a Triennial Wellness Policy as presented.

The review of the revisions in the Wellness Policy regarded food and beverages being brought into the school for celebrations such as birthdays and other events. If passed as written, the policy would have restricted the use of candy and beverages to reward students for academic or classroom performance.

Concerns about outside food and beverages being brought in included standards and nutritional guidelines, as well as the use of these items with possible poor nutritional quality undermining healthy eating habits and could lead to those habits continuing into adulthood.

If passed, the policy would have required any food or beverages brought in to be individually wrapped an to list all ingredients, which must meet USDA Smart Snacks in School guidelines.

Any food or beverages brought in would need to be reviewed beforehand to determine if any students had a food allergy to any of the food/beverage ingredients. The policy also recommended that instead of food or beverages, that items such as pencils, erasers, stickers, Playdough or books be used as celebratory items.

It was also mentioned that aside from food allergies, food safety was a concern in that food prepared at home may not be done under sanitary conditions, which could lead to food poisoning. The topic of equity was also raised, in that some students could not afford to provide food/beverages for their child’s birthday, among other concerns.

The motion was made by Dr. Paige Cash to approve the Trienneial Wellness Policy as presented, but there was no second for the motion so it failed.

Next, Chris Stafford, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations, and Lincoln Whitaker, Director of Technology, were approved as authorized Superintendent Designees to sign all Virginia Department of Education reports.

A discussion on field trips was the next topic. Field trips for each of the county elementary schools, the CTE department, PCMS and PCHS were presented and approved, allowing the planning phases of each to move forward.

The subject of extending the plan for shortage of substitute teachers was up next. That plan will continue as it has been operating.

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