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New alert system will allow for better communication with parents

The Verndale School Board approved a contract with Honeywell Monday evening that will give parents and students a direct link with the school office.

With winter bearing down and inclement weather on the way, bus delays and school closings will increase. The Honeywell alert system will give the school the ability to notify parents of schedule changes by land phone, cell phone and over the Internet. Parents will be able to dictate where the alerts are sent. The school already has a Web site:

"We're just trying to keep our parents notified the best we can," Verndale superintendent Paul Brownlow said.

The system can route notifications to specific numbers and addresses. If a notice affects only the members of a sports team or school organization only those people will be notified.

Brownlow reported that Bertha-Hewitt recently used the system to squelch a rumor about swine flu cases at the school.

Dean of Students Justin Sperling gave a report on a new academic eligibility policy that closes up some "gray areas" and "raises the bar" for students with failing grades, detention or suspension problems.

A restricted list will be generated bi-weekly commencing the third week of the first and second semester. The policy states that students on academic probation will be required to attend four 30-minute tutoring sessions or until their name is removed from the list. Students attending the tutoring sessions will be allowed to participate in extracurricular events. Students who do not attend the tutoring sessions will immediately be placed on academic suspension. During the suspension they would be ineligible to play or participate in school activities. Students who are failing three classes will be ineligible immediately unless they raise one of those grades, in which case they will be returned to academic probation.

"I don't want to water down these tutoring sessions," Sperling said. Students who merely show up for the tutoring but do not apply themselves will not be not be given credit. The tutor will make that determination.

"I think we are being fair to the kids and saying that if you go in and put in your time you won't lose any eligibility at all. But if you neglect to go in and get tutoring or do anything about your grades then you are going to be missing some time," Sperling said.

Teachers, coaches and students have been notified about the policy.

"My biggest goal is that I'd like to see some academic banners up on the wall of the gym, we don't have too many up there," Brownlow said.

Department of Education graduation requirements have changed. Students who do not pass the mathematics grad test are eligible to receive a high school diploma if they complete state and local coursework and credits required for graduation by the school board.

Sperling recommended that students who need to retest must attend ten 30-minute tutoring sessions before the retest. Students would be given the opportunity to examine sample test questions, review test specifications, address education needs and view the GRAD tutorial.

Brownlow's superintendent/principal's report noted that Verndale had 425 students grades K-12 in September 2007 and 485 in September 2009.