Wednesday, July 25, 2007

R-8 Board moves closer to new cell phone policy

A final decision on a new policy that would forbid the use of cell phones in Joplin schools will be made one day before the 2007-2008 school year begins. The board passed the new policy on first reading Tuesday night:

Under the policy, all personal electronic devices would have to be turned off from the beginning of the school day until the end.

Though the policy includes MP3 players, digital voice recorders, digital cameras, portable gaming systems, pagers and other gadgets, board members mainly discussed cell phones.

Assistant Superintendent Steve Doerr said the policy was worded so that officials at each school building could decide what works best.

"We wanted to give building administrators the flexibility to decide what's best for them," Doerr said. "Older students can be given a little bit of freedom."

Doerr said middle schools may prefer to ban operation of the devices while students are in a school building, while the high school would enforce the policy from the first bell to the last.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Final Joplin signing set for Devil's Messenger

What is expected to be the final Joplin signing for South Middle School eighth grade communication arts teacher Randy Turner's second novel, Devil's Messenger, will be held 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 28, at Hastings Books, Music and Video in Joplin.

Mr. Turner's first novel, Small Town News, was published in 2005. He is working on a third book, this one non-fiction, this summer.

R-8 schools plan policy to eliminate electronic devices

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education is discussing a policy that would forbid students from bringing electronic devices such as palm pilots, camera phones, I-Pods, MP3 players, etc. to school, according to an article in today's Joplin Globe:

R-8 district contemplates policy for phones in school

— By Joe Hadsall

Jamie Dorris pays her own cell-phone bill every month.
The 15-year-old sophomore at Joplin High School knows to keep her phone quiet during school. She leaves the ringer on vibrate and never answers during class — according to school rules.
Those rules may get more stringent, however. If the Joplin R-8 Board of Education adopts a new policy in the next few weeks, Dorris would have to turn her cell phone off during the day.
She doesn't think that's fair.
"I think cell phones should be allowed to be turned on," Dorris said. "If there is an emergency, it's an easy way for my parents to get ahold of me."
Cell phones aren't the only target of the school board's proposed new policy. Using gadgets such as iPods and Palm Pilots also would be forbidden.
"This is a common-sense policy," said board member Robert "Bo" Lee. "We need to make sure these devices don’t interrupt school."
The board will discuss the policy during Tuesday's regular meeting. After revisions, the policy would be approved during a second session, potentially on Aug. 14.
Lee said he would like to see the policy approved before the beginning of the school year on Aug. 15.
Policy aimed at parents, too
Assistant Superintendent Steve Doerr said the policy formalizes rules already enforced in school: Cell phones are to be turned off during class. The policy cracking down on cell-phone use is aimed at parents as well as students.
"Some parents call their children's cell phones during the day," Doerr said. "Parents need to understand that it is important not to disrupt their children while at school."
Doerr said the "old-fashioned way" of contacting youngsters — calling the school's main office — works just fine.
Bob Barr said he is just fine with that. He said he can get in contact with his son, Luke, without calling the sophomore's cell phone.
"If we have a family emergency, there are other means I have to contact him," Barr said. "I understand the school's position and support it."
Dorris' mother, Yvonne, said the "old-fashioned way" doesn't always work. She thinks cell phones should be allowed to be on.
"There have been several times I've tried to get hold of my kids, and it's taken one or two hours to hear back from them," Yvonne Dorris said. "Even though something might not be a 911-type emergency, it may still be an emergency."
Other gadgets
Cell phones aren't the only gadgets that would be banned under the policy. MP3 players, radios, pagers, camera phones, personal digital assistants, laptops, portable gaming systems — all personal electronic devices would be barred from operation.
Lee, the board member, said none of these devices existed a few years ago, but children's use of them is now prevalent.
"We are trying to get ahead of the curve," he said. "This is a new phenomenon we are dealing with."
Doerr said the policy is meant to help students focus on their education with as little distraction as possible.
"We've all been next to someone having a loud cell-phone conversation," he said. "This policy will help kids learn what's appropriate."
MP3 players allow owners to store music collections on a small, pocket-sized hard drive. Senior Brandon Pliler has an MP3 player, and he listens to music while he studies.
"I think we should get to use it if we have some down time," Pliler said. "If we’re studying or reading, I don’t see the problem."
Luke Barr also owns an MP3 player, but he said he doesn’t take it to school.
"Some of the teachers let us listen during tests," Luke Barr said. "But I’ve heard about some kids recording answers to a test onto their players and listening to them during the test."
Students have found ways to use the devices to cheat, Doerr said.
"These devices have tremendous amounts of memory," he said. "Students can download entire books onto an MP3 player and go through it to get the information they want."
Doerr also said students are becoming adept at text-messaging while their phones are still in their pockets.
Senior Garrett Shank is skeptical.
"Cheating is a lot harder than it looks," he said. "It’s not realistic to text answers. That’s a lot of texting to do."
Lee said he wants to hear input from parents and students before the policy is given a second reading for approval.
"This is a touchy situation," he said. "It deals with parents' rights to talk to their kids. We want to make rules that we can live with."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Fortner resigns, new positions for Pliler, Moore

A few more changes are on tap for the South Middle School faculty for the 2007-2008 school year.
Mr. Chris Fortner, PE instructor, has resigned to take a teaching position in Seneca, his home town. Mr. Kasey Pliler, who has been teaching the Success program has moved into the P.E. position, with Ms. Debbie Moore, the ISS instructor taking over the Success program.
The ISS position is still open.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Navarre to perform in Stone's Throw Theatre play

Former South Middle School student Cheyla "Fox" Navarre, a sophomore at Joplin High School, will be featured in the upcoming Stone's Throw Theatre production of "The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood." She plays the lead female role of Lady Marian.
The play is scheduled to run July 12, 13, 14, 20, 21, and 22.
Information on reservations and directions to the theater can be found at this link.
This link will take you to the Carthage Press story about the production.
(Fox Navarre is shown in a scene from "Bus Stop," an earlier Stone's Throw Theatre production. Joplin Globe photo)