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509-J views policy on background checks

For parents visiting classrooms


by: BILL VOLLMER - The new rubberized surface on the MHS track will be completed this week. Wheelbarrows full of rubber pellets are hand sprinkled on adhesive to make the track.
Donations are coming in to help upgrade the quality of the new Madras High School track currently being installed.

Superintendent Rick Molitor reported that he approached both the city and county for donations of economic development funds and got approval for $1,000 from the city of Madras and $10,000 from Jefferson County.

“This is economic development because it will help us bring in track events to spur business at local motels, restaurants and businesses,” Molitor said.

Two teachers spoke during the citizens comment time about their concerns over proposed policy changes that would require parents wanting to visit their child’s classroom to have a background check.

Madras Primary teacher Denise Garcia said she understood the need for background checks for parents going on field trips, but requiring it for classroom visits was too strict.

“We have a hard time getting parents to come to conferences and parent nights. This will make them feel uncomfortable in the school. I know not all my parents can pass a background check for whatever reason. Some aren’t here legally. We’re making clear distinctions between which parents can come see their children and which ones can’t,” she said.

Buff Teacher Tina Wagenblast said, “We have a hung population of our parents who can’t pass a background test, whether they’re illegal or made poor decisions.” She said requiring a check would be “sending a very strong message that they are not welcome (in the school).”

Molitor handed out his draft of a policy revision for a first reading. It said the district must ensure the safety of students and staff and that classrooms are not disrupted. To visit classrooms, parents must register as a “volunteer,” which requires a background check.

A “visitor,” however, does not need a background check. The visitor signs in at the office, and wears a badge, and is monitored by staff. If invited by a teacher, the visitor may attend classroom activities, where the teacher will supervise him or her.

Molitor noted with a government-issued photo ID card, showing date of birth, the school can run a background check in one hour or less if needed. This can be an Oregon ID card, or they could use an ID card from another country.

“The (Mexican) Consulate comes to Central Oregon two times a year with a van, or people can get ID cards at their office in Portland,” Molitor said.

Board member Tom Norton said he would rather err on the side of safety than let questionable people into the school just to get parental involvement.

After discussing and alleviating some of the teachers’ concerns, it was agreed that whatever the new policy is, it must be very clear so everyone understands. Molitor was directed to revise the first draft to clarify things, and bring it back for a second reading.

In other business, Inez Canche, who is a parent in the Juntos program, was appointed to fill the open budget committee position.

For the strategic design workshop the district is holding to form a vision for its educational programs, board members were asked to send out letters personally inviting five key people in the community to attend. The workshop will be May 15-16, at the Inn at Cross Keys Station.

Under personnel, resignations were accepted from special ed teacher Kaylie Kinsey, and reading teacher Cyd Wheeler. Krista Hayes was hired as the new head soccer coach for Madras High School.



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