By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Tucker County High School hosted Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting that began with Christopher Luzier and Alex Miller. These two gentlemen are attorneys at law with Miller Luzier PLLC and came to inform the board on their fight against JUUL, a device targeting teens leading to nicotine addiction followed by serious health problems or death.
Miller began with a presentation showcasing how JUUL has targeted teens since 2015 based on their advertisement tendencies. A JUUL is a device used to inhale a patented nicotine salt, which travels to the brain faster, and is available in multiple flavors. Each pod inhaled by a JUUL is equivalent to two packs of cigarettes in terms of nicotine. “Since the JUUL came on the market, as you can see now, 21% of teens use e-cigarettes,” explained Miller. According to the Centers of Disease Control, this number coincides with the rise in e-cigarette sales. “Even the CEO of JUUL, Kevin Burns, as admitted that JUUL is responsible for youth vaping,” he continued.
Luzier took over the presentation to show how JUUL has changed their advertising scheme; however the damage has already been done. “There’s over 500,000 Instagram posts with actresses and students, it’s become the cool thing to do,” he said. Students have even turned hiding their JUUL’s into a game to be able to take them to school. These items look a lot like a USB device making it easy to disguise. He explained that neurochemistry supports how nicotine changes the brain which in turn changes the user. “I’ve seen this a lot, kids will be without their JUUL and they’ll throw the biggest fit you’ve ever seen, they’re that addicted,” Luzier confirmed. “It’s become an epidemic in here in schools.”
He shifted gears to the education system and how it affects them and what they can do to fight back. “This puts the schools at the front line to fighting this epidemic,” Luzier said as it leads to several issues during school. A legal theory called public nuisance is an option for public entities to bring claims against companies declaring they’ve caused a public nuisance, which the school can take a standpoint against JUUL. There are a few standpoints the school system can take to fight the JUUL Company at no risk to the school system. If the law firm does not win the litigation, they do not receive reimbursements for their work. Luzier concluded the presentation and offered to take questions. The board unanimously agreed to join the fight against JUUL for the betterment of the education system, but most importantly, the health and safety of the users.
Reports began with Paul Pennington, the Tucker County High School carpentry teacher, who wished to provide a program update to the board. Currently, carpentry is only offered part time at the high school, but within those hours a lot of building skills are being implemented.
It is Pennington’s hope to turn this into a full time program next school year. “I really feel it’s pertinent to our county,” he said. Some of the projects the class has completed are cornhole boards, picnic tables, a building for the city of Thomas, and are preparing for an offsite building. The carpentry class has also been collaborating with the other CTE classes to reconstruct the TCHS entry gates and is planning to refurbish the bathroom stall doors. The class has also been asked by Snowshoe to build a building for a non-profit organization, along with a robotics competition table for TVEMS. Pennington received a modernization grant in the amount of $13,800 which is being used to purchase a saw and planer.
He showed a video of how impactful CTE skills are and how beneficial it can be to hone in on those skills to make it a career that is in need of workers. “Like I told you all last year, we’re training our kids to leave the county, we need to start training them to stay in the county,” Pennington stated. Board member Cathy Hebb stated, “Having that skill is one thing, but perfecting it and working hard at it is a must.” Pennington agreed and said the more opportunities the students have the better off they will be. Hebb asked Pennington how many students he currently has enrolled, and he informed her that one block contains 16 and the other has 20, as he explained how difficult a class of 20 can be to teach.
Cameron Mullenax, student LSIC representative and Senior Class President, spoke briefly on how they LSIC is attempting to communicate more with the community in regards to the school performance. He noted some positivity going on within TCHS, including the students of the week who can earn an hour lunch. Mullenax also noted some areas needing attention, such as the bathroom stalls. He and his class officers are meeting with Principal Stephen Cosner on a weekly basis to keep these lines of communication open.
Ms. Bobbi Quattro, LSIC acting chair, took the floor next. “Our main objective with the LSIC is to bring about community awareness,” she said. “What we want to do is let the community know some of the good things going on here,” she added. Quattro listed many of the activities have been going on at TCHS, including but not limited to robotics, theater, and many more areas. President Tim Turner agreed, saying “That’s one of the goals we wanted to work on. I think the group has a really good idea of trying to share what’s going on.” Hebb asked, “Have you ever thought about putting some of that stuff in the paper?” Cosner confirmed it is already in the works for the next couple weeks to come.
Cosner followed with a progress report on TCHS. “We’re going to celebrate the positives and deal with the negatives,” he began. “We had one senior with one failing grade the first nine weeks,” he proudly informed the board. The Exact Path Program is working through some difficulties and option pathway is underway and being utilized. Cosner also praised the new volleyball team on their recent win and their vast improvement over their first season. “We’re going to bring back All Star Trips,” he noted for those who meet the grade and attendance requirements. New committees are being implemented to focus on positives and the TCHS robotics team is mentoring the TVEMS team. “We set two big goals,” he continued. “Number one is to work on our attendance, our attendance is not where it should be,” he admitted. 66 students have less than 90% attendance and those will be met with to address these issues and improve this percentage. “Our second goal is to work on CTE certifications,” Cosner said.
A Governors Workforce Certification, OSHA 10, and ASE Certifications are all in the works. He asked the board for help getting the word out about the positive aspects at TCHS.
Board member Jessica Wamsley commented on the All Star Trips resulting in positive feedback from students. “I also believe that respect is a two way street,” she said as she appreciated the effort coming from the school administration and staff with hopes it will only lead to more positive improvements for the school. Wamsley asked for clarifications on the midterm reports which portray a final grade that will not be correct until the end of the semester in December. She also asked about incompletes being reported, which Cosner confirmed those are being addressed as they are made aware. Wamsley then asked how the new cell phone policy was going so far. “Better than I thought,” Cosner confirmed. He readily admitted there have been a few issues but they are being addressed and at the end of this year, he would like to revisit this policy along with the board. Board member Chris Gross asked Cosner how the teachers are feeling about the new policy. “It’s not bad,” he admitted, “and the parents have been pretty good.” Cosner also further clarified the doctor excuses or prior approval in regards to student drivers. “Anytime we have something new we’re going to have confusion,” he admitted.
Cosner informed the board of the needs of the high school. One of his requests was for a school resource officer, which he further explained. The police had to be called once already this school year, and it took 14 minutes for someone to arrive. “That scares me,” he added.
“They got here as quick as they could, but I just think it’s a need that we have.” Discussion followed with possible funding options for such a position. He mentioned the need of a new tip skillet and warming rack for the cafeteria and the consideration of an upgraded computer and camera system. “I can see bodies, I can’t see faces,” he said. He continued by stating a PA and bell system is needed in the outdoor classroom where there is little to no communication to, though the system as a whole needs updated. Outside doors need repaired and the entire building needs re-keyed.
“As far as personnel, I’d like to consider a full time nurse,” Cosner continued. He provided evidence of this need by telling of an incident that happened earlier that day of a probable concussion during a pickup basketball game. “We need a social studies teacher,” he continued.
“I am fully supportive of a full time carpentry and a full time ag,” he added. “We have the kids for the programs, we do have that.” He also informed that Ms. Cindy is asking for a part time kitchen person. In conclusion, he said there could be more requests, but those were his top priorities.
Turner provided a list of employees qualifying for the three step pay increments for the year 2020. There were also no new developments regarding the Student Success Act of 2019, formerly known as House Bill 206.
New business followed beginning with the approval of the October 7 meeting minutes, payment of bills, and budget adjustments. Notices of intent to home school were approved as well as the TCHS FFA trip to the National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. All were approved unanimously.
Superintendent Alicia Lambert recommended the approval of hiring Holly Hinkle and Robert Bennett as substitute teachers and Quintessa Vest as a substitute cook for the current school year. She also recommended the approval of Donna Akins as a homebound teacher effective October 22 and Brian Zirk as a volunteer girl’s basketball coach at DTEMS pending certification. All board members agreed and approved Lambert’s recommendations.
Financial statements were reviewed and approved as well as a contract with Scott Lampinen to provide support to the TVEMS administrators, both of who are new to their positions.
There was a suggestion to reimburse potential substitute teachers for the cost of their background checks and license fees as an incentive to encourage qualified individuals to apply.
The approximate cost for these requirements is $85, and in order to receive this reimbursement the successful candidate is required to sub at minimum five days. This will take effect October 22 moving forward. Recently, Lambert asked the 27 substitutes on the county list what deters them from taking sub days when offered. She said of those on the list, 17 are retired teachers and only want to sub at certain schools or for certain teachers.
They are also limited on the number of days they can work which plays a factor. Others on the list are also part time teachers that can only sub certain portions of the day, limiting their availability. Vice President Daniel “Chopper” Evans made a motion to approve with a second by Hebb with everyone in agreement, therefore motion carried.
The calendar of events was briefly discussed with the next meeting being slated for November 4 at Tucker Valley, beginning at 4:30 p.m.