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C.O.P.E. program expanding to middle schools

Friday, January 15, 2010

Joe Trout
* Funding cuts discussed

Although the budget is getting tighter, one program is expanding within the Clay Community School Corporation

During Thursday's Clay Community School Board of Trustees meeting, in a 6-1 vote with board member Forrest Buell opposing, the Court Ordered Placement for Education (C.O.P.E.) program will be piloted with middle school students.

The program is required for seventh-and-eight-grade students and voluntary for parents of sixth-grade students during the second semester of the 2009-10 school year at North Clay Middle, the middle school students at Clay City Jr./Sr. High and Clay City Elementary Schools.

C.O.P.E. is the new form of out-of-school suspension, which is having positive results at the high schools.

"After one semester in use at the schools, I have only had three students get repeat suspensions," Clay Circuit Court Judge Joseph Trout, who supports the program, said. "It has opened up a dialogue between children and their parents concerning disciplinary problems."

Students are referred to the program through various violations, which would usually result in an out-of-school suspension. However, the student is instructed to appear before Trout the next morning with a parent/guardian.

Documents are sent to Executive Director of Clay Community Corrections, Mary Brown, who then meets with Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger to file the appropriate court documents. The next morning, the student and the parent/guardian attend the hearing, where Trout reviews the case and speaks to the student during court.

Trout then orders the student to serve approximately 1-10 days in the program, which requires morning study sessions at Cumberland Academy where they are completing school assignments for full credit.

During the afternoon, students are involved in community service work, and the parents/guardians are required to pay $15 in court fees for every day the student is enrolled in the program. The money is used to pay for supervision and transportation of the Community Corrections personnel.

"There is no labeling or permanent record," Trout said. "All records are expunged at the conclusion of the time in the program."

In other business, Supt. Dan Schroeder addressed concerns surrounding the cuts made to the budget by the state and the board. CCSC will receive $26,298,801 for 2010, which is a cut in state funding of $1,273,830 from the $27,571,839 in 2009. Approximately 4.6 percent was deducted from 2009-10 general fund.

"We are in a lot better shape than other school corporations in our area. We have been fiscally prudent and frugal," Schroeder said. "We will not have to make any cuts to personnel for the remainder of the 2010-11 school year."

He went on to explain CCSC has attained a structural surplus and a healthy cash balance.

Approximately 96 percent of the general fund is used to pay salaries, fringe benefits, and other operational costs.

"We think the cuts to the general fund will be permanent until the economy picks up," he said.

Although no cuts were made, Schroeder said that it is not indefinite, but for the next 18-months there shouldn't be any cuts.

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I know that a reporter is not given all the space in the paper that would be needed to put in everything said on even part of a meeting, but what is here paints a pretty rosy picture that I did not get from the meeting.

Part of our "healthy cash balance" is due to not replacing people in elementary positions who left due to retirement. We are in a fairly good financial state due to that, but didn't we sacrifice education to be there?

On COPE, I think it is great. It has really had a positive effect in our high schools and even before it was put into the middle school it affected the students. A story was told at the meeting about a couple of students who were called to the principal's office for fighting at NCMS last semester. When asked what they were fighting about, they basically told the principal that they had a beef but had to resolve it before the semester ended as they had heard that the COPE program would be in the middle school this semester. Most of the students really would rather not have to go into a courtroom and yhat is a good thing.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Sat, Jan 16, 2010, at 7:38 AM

So...we continue to cut in areas of education. We should not be surprised. We eliminated Early Bird this past year and we continue to reduce numbers of teachers and teaching hours making student teacher ratios higher at all levels and reducing options for students in high school with less class periods and fewer course sections.

We have aids who are well meaning but are not teachers and should not be replacing them as they do not have the skills the students need and we are turning out graduates with yesterday's qualifications while other schools have adapted to today's needs.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Sat, Jan 16, 2010, at 5:51 PM

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