Code of ethics to be addressed in separate document
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Following a recent communications breakdown, the South Kingstown School Committee approved an updated communications plan Tuesday.
The communications subcommittee, chaired by Liz Morris, school committee member, has been working on updating the communications plan for approximately 18 months, according to Raissa Mosher, vice chair of the communications subcommittee and school committee.
The school committee voted 5-1 to adopt the plan, Morris was absent, which is “designed to establish a process for effective communication with all educational stakeholders.
A code of ethics, which was previously included in the communications plan, was eliminated, at the request of committee member Scott Mueller, and made into a separate document.
“I think all of the changes that all of you requested were put in,” Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow said.
The “Comprehensive Communications Plans” has four goals: implement a communications program that directly helps the district achieve its strategic goals; foster strong relationships with district stakeholders; provide focus and direction for messages/methods in support of the district’s goals; and enable the district to present itself accurately to audiences.
The school committee decided against joining the National Public Relations Association as a committee and committee member Jonathan Daly-LaBelle asked that the bullet requiring committee membership of that association be removed.
Daly-LaBelle also stated that he had discussed this communications plan with several community members who requested that forums be held with two or three community members and the superintendent. At such forums Daly-LaBelle said community members would be able to ask general questions about the school system.
Daly-LaBelle indicated that the potential for such forums may have been discussed at previous meetings.
“I would not see that as an appropriate thing to include in this district comprehensive communications document,” said Maureen Cotter, school committee chair.
“I don’t think that that belongs here,” she said. “I don’t think it would be appropriate for two or three school committee members to sit with community members in that way. Different information, not given to the full committee, may effect our work in the future.”
“The district communications plan has been pretty well worked on,” she said. “I think you’re going to get push back from just about everyone on the school committee. We’re a body, that’s the way that we function.”
A back and forth between Cotter and Daly-LaBelle ensued, as Daly-LaBelle accused Cotter of “cutting him off.”
Daly-LaBelle then stated that two members of the communications subcommittee were not at the last meeting and that it’s “important to keep minutes” of subcommittee meetings, an issue which Daly-LaBelle has historically taken issue with.
The committee voted on the communications plan, voting 5-1 to approve it with Daly-LaBelle dissenting.
The committee then moved on to the proposed code of ethics, which is now a document separate from the communications plan.
Several school committee members indicated they did not have adequate time to review the document and would like to review it more carefully before voting on it at a future meeting.
Stringfellow said the code of ethics was taken from the National School Board Association’s code of ethics, as well as code of ethics from school districts in other states including Maine, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.
“We hope this meets everyone’s needs,” she said.
Daly-LaBelle suggested adding several bullet points to the proposed code.
“I will show respect and not be dismissive to all school committee members during meetings, including no side conversations, eye rolling or making of faces while someone is talking; also including, not cutting off other members as they speak.”
He also suggested adding, “I will recognize a healthy, strong school community includes dissenting opinions. I will recognize the importance of seeking, hearing and listening to opinions contrary to our own to ensure we are doing all we can for ourselves and administrators accountable.”
Cotter suggested tabling the discussion until the next school committee meeting, which members seemed to agree with, though a formal vote was not taken.
In other school committee business, the committee unanimously approved the latex glove policy, which was in its second reading. This policy is in accordance with state law and prohibits the use of disposable, non-sterile and sterile natural rubber and latex gloves in South Kingstown school facilities.
The committee also unanimously approved the recipients of the annual Augusta Hazard Scholarship. The recipients will be recognized June 5 at Senior Honors Night.
The committee held a first reading of the long-worked on student achievement policy. Mueller made a few suggestions that were mostly editorial in nature and about some confusing language in the policy
Cotter said the policy would return to the school committee table for a second reading and a vote in June.
In delegations, the committee recognized 15 teachers in the district as nominees for South Kingstown teacher of the year.
The committee also recognized Jennifer Collins, music teacher at Broad Rock Middle School, who recently received the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award.
The next regular school committee business meeting will be held June 11 at 7 p.m.
Prior to that, a community work session will be held May 28 at 7 p.m. on the “bring your own device” concept.