Clear policy set on valuables in school

CLOQUET - Starting next fall, Cloquet students and parents will have to sign off that they understand exactly where responsibility lies for personal items brought to school.

CLOQUET - Starting next fall, Cloquet students and parents will have to sign off that they understand exactly where responsibility lies for personal items brought to school.

The board approved Monday two policies to address district concerns that expensive personal devices - like iPod music players and cell phones - be kept out of the classroom. Policy 502.1 states that "if you do not need it in school, don't bring it" and that the school district does not assume liability for lost or stolen property. It also outlines steps students can take to protect their valuables.

"I would like to see if we can have every kid sign a form that very strongly states that we're not responsible [for their items]. Don't bring it to school," said board member Sandy Crowley. She suggested that students sign the policy at the beginning of the school year as they do for the "Acceptable Computer Use" policy.

A new policy was also approved that outlines what happens to items confiscated from students that are disruptive to learning. The policy states that school staff are expected to take "reasonable care" of the confiscated items, document what was confiscated, and that items not picked up by the end of the school year may be discarded. School staff will not be held responsible for confiscated items.

The issue surfaced earlier this year because a middle school student's family was reimbursed for an iTouch personal music player/computer stolen from a teacher after it was confiscated from a student.


Also Monday, the board heard of an opportunity to save taxpayers money in future debt service payments by "refinancing" a 2002 bond at a lower interest rate--similar to a home refinance. Springsted Inc. Vice President Jim Schmitt explained that his company could offer a total savings of approximately $183,000 to $195,000 by selling the bonds before April 1, 2010. The annual net savings to taxpayers would be $36,000 to $41,000.

"This is a pretty good sale," said Schmitt. "You have a very nice savings here for your taxpayers."

The board will decide on the sale in December and asked district Finance Manager Kim Josephson to see how Springsted's rates compare with similar companies.

In other discussions, Superintendent Ken Scarbrough told the board during their working session that, in general, he does not pass on to the board letters or e-mails that are sent to him anonymously. He asked the board if they wanted to consider changing that policy.

"If it's something of a serious nature, I will check it out," he said, adding that the anonymous messages can't be verified or clarified. "I just don't think you want to get into the position of accepting anything that comes in."

Board member Sandy Crowley was concerned that people don't sign letters because they're afraid of retaliation by administration. The school board holds an open forum at the beginning of every meeting to allow people to address any concerns or ask questions of the board and administrators. The board will consider drafting a policy for accepting public communications.

The issue of tough eighth grade math classes was also discussed during the board meeting. Board members Jim and Sandy Crowley expressed concern about the number of students struggling with middle school math. Principal Tom Brenner replied that math is more difficult than in previous years because state standards are higher.

"Our math teachers bend over backward and our scores in math are the best in the area," said Brenner. "This is a hard time, at the beginning of the year, kids are learning a new system... But the kids might not be getting the grades they used to and that's hard for the kids and the parents. The state raised the bar... so we raised the bar. It's an incredible jump."


Sandy Crowley said that her granddaughter had to work with a tutor to get through eighth grade math and thought the teacher should be able to cover what she needed to know. She also expressed concern that parents are not always able to help students at that level.

"My dad was my math teacher and no one left his class without knowing what they had to do," she said.

Brenner countered that the teachers "come in early, leave late and don't have lunch," so they are available to help students who seek it.

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