ELIZABETHTON — The Elizabethton City Board of Education stood united Thursday night in an effort to keep new synthetic drugs out of the school system but split on whether to repair the home stands at Brown-Childress Stadium.
The board also heard good news from staff members on several reports, including the recent audit, the release of the system and individual school report cards and block scheduling.
The board approved on first reading an addition to its zero tolerance policy on drugs. The current policy discusses students “who unlawfully possess any drug” but Superintendent Ed Alexander said the state has not yet made synthetic drugs, such as any man-made derivative of marijuana, illegal.
The proposed policy change adds “due to the harmful nature of synthetic drugs (including any man-made derivative of marijuana) and/or bath salts, possession of these substances will be considered a zero-tolerance offense and will merit a 180-day suspension.”
The board split 2-2 on an effort by board member Catherine Armstrong to start repairs to the stands at the stadium.
Armstrong said “instead of sitting hearing and doing” the board should move ahead on making repairs to the home grandstand’s structural and water drainage problems.
“I have been assured we have the money available,” Armstrong said. She provided the board with copies of recent estimates to make the repairs and renovations, which included a low estimate of $285,000 that she said intrigued her.
“We have the money to repair the stadium,” Armstrong said. “This would not require more taxes, we would not even have to use the city’s debt service.”
Board member Rita Booher said the low estimates addressed only two of the seven problems at the stadium. She said there were five other problems at the stadium that needed to be fixed, including the dressing rooms. “It doesn’t take care of everything,” Booher said.
Armstrong said the repairs would in no way change the capital improvement plan, which calls for the construction of a new football stadium on the campus of Elizabethton High School.
Beth Wilson, the system’s finance director, gave good news on the recently completed annual audit. She said the auditors had no findings in two of the schools and only a few findings in the other schools.
“The ones we do have are very minor, which can be easily corrected,” Wilson said.
At the system level, the auditors recommended a different procedure on retirement funds that Wilson said would have no changes on revenue or expenditures.
Eddie Pless, director of testing, data and early learning, said the report cards showed the system continues to do very well on the achievement portion.
All juniors took the ACT exam and the system finished in ninth place in the state.
The system continues to do well on the value added section and attendance and graduation rates are well above state goals. Attendance is at 95.1 percent and the graduation rate is at 96.4 percent. In fact, the system had a zero dropout rate as those who did not graduate have returned for a fifth year.
Pless said the system did have three schools placed on target lists on the Adequate Yearly Progress because of achievements by some subgroups.
Elizabethton High School Principal John Wright gave the board an update on the new block scheduling curriculum. He said the block schedule of four longer courses taught for each semester has resulted in more focus for students and many teachers like the extra time they have with the students.