Fonda school district revises code of conduct

By HEATHER NELLIS

Recorder News Staff

FONDA -- In anticipation of the first day of classes next week, the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Board of Education on Monday adopted a revised code of conduct.

The 40-plus page code not only spells out provisions for students' rights and responsibilities, but additionally addresses conduct for faculty, staff, visitors, parents and guardians.

"We're trying to eliminate interpretation," said high school Principal David Halloran, who led a committee over the summer to revise the document. "We're trying to spell [the code] out as clearly as we can."

The district held a public hearing Monday on the revised code of conduct. Noone spoke.

Interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello said the code is something the board has to maintain for public order.

"It's about being able to do our business in systemic way," he said.

Halloran said the district decided to take a closer look at the code after an issue in May in which a high-schooler wanted to bring an eighth-grader to the prom. Officials declined the eighth-grader's attendance, but Halloran said it was a policy that wasn't detailed on all school documents.

"That's why you look at the code every year," said Colucciello. "Are there things that are unclear? Are there things that need to be clarified -- that needed to be clarified."

During a presentation to the board, Halloran said a committee comprised of high school students, a parent, and members of the district's unions sat down to review the document page-by-page.

Some of the additions Halloran pointed out included provisions relating to the Dignity for All Students Act and an updated dress code.

"We've had issues where the latest trends in fashion take up more time than they should," Halloran said.

"We're not the fashion police," said Colucciello. "Our role is in the teaching and learning process, but when fashion impedes that responsibility, we have to step in. The courts have said it has to be clear when it goes over that line into the teaching and learning process."

Halloran said because students were included in the decision-making process, "they felt like their voices were heard. What I like abut the code is it spells out student rights."

A full copy of the code is available on the district's website at www.fondafultonvilleschools.org.

In other news:

* Officials said they've reached an agreement to update locally-negotiated terms of the teacher evaluation plan that expired at the end of the year. Elementary School Principal Thomas Ciaccio said some provisions had a sunset after just a year because the evaluations were new last year.

Colucciello said the plans are due to the state by September 1, or state aid could be withheld. Fonda-Fultonville will submit its plan today, he said.

The district is also working to decide how it will reveal the results of teachers' evaluations to the public.

"Its part of the regulations -- we have to interpret the scores to parents," Colucciello said. "They aren't scores we want bantering around the community, so we're working on how we're going to do that."

"These are new times and uncharted waters. If you're not careful, you can sink the boat in uncharted waters, but we're working through this slowly and deliberately."

* A professional development plan was also adopted for staff. Special Programs Director Scott Rice led a committee of teachers over the summer. They developed the plan after teachers responded to an online survey to identify their needs.

"The survey clearly identified their needs, so it wasn't difficult to take the important parts and put them into priority. We took a look at the year's schedule and put things where they made sense," said Rice.

For example, the teachers put priority on their evaluations and children's testing, so those trainings were scheduled September and October, Rice said.

"This was the first time in my 24 years as a teacher I truly felt we could give our input," said teacher Steve Vunk, who participated in the committee.

Teachers on the committee included Sharon Kline, Meg Hoffman, Amy Mulyca, Tammy Berberich, Ann Mahon, Kerry MacDougall, Theresa House, Deborah Oertel, Bill Cooper, Deana Lenz, Emily Gioa, Art Dockerty, Deb Silvernail and Laura Egelston.