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Students get time off for good behavior
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After much discussion, the Unified School District 428 School Board reluctantly approved Monday night giving the entire Great Bend High School student body a half day off, that is if the upcoming National Honor Society’s food drive reaches its goal of collecting 8,000 items.
The drive is set for Nov. 7-14. The time off would come in the form of no morning classes on March 9, a date that already has an 11:30 a.m. district-wide dismissal.
Teachers would remain in their classrooms all day. Only GBHS students won’t attend their early classes.
But, some on the board feared this would set a precedent in which other groups or schools would want similar treatment. Others said donating to the food bank is an act of charity, and no reward should be necessary.
“Why do you need a carrot in front of you for a service project?” board member Larry Kutina said during the regular monthly meeting at the District Education Center. Giving, he said, should be a reward in and of itself.
“I think we’re opening up a can of worms,” board member Kevin Mauler said.
But, the drive has taken place for two years and has been successful each year, Superintendent Tom Vernon said. And, for both years, students have been given off the half day.
“A large number of the student body brought stuff because of  the incentive,” Vernon said. Vernon and GBHS Principal Tim Friess said they thought the number of food items donated would drop if the reward were eliminated.
 High school librarian and NHS sponsor Emily Mulch said she understands the concerns. But, she said, even with the incentives, there is an opportunity to create a habit of giving for young people and that makes it worthwhile.
The request was granted with a caveat. The board directed the district administration to draft a policy governing such requests before the matter comes up again next year.
In other action, the board:
• Continued discussion on the proposed electronic communications policy, a policy aimed at protecting staff and students with regards to communicating via e-mail, cell phones and social media. They looked at a fifth revision of the plan after it had been studied by the district’s counselor Mark Calcara. “It doesn’t say you can’t communicate with students electronically,” Vernon said. “It just says you have to be professional about it.” It does provide a loose guideline and does leave room for disciplinary action.
• Heard a report from Curriculum Director Ruth Heinrichs on a survey completed by district parents and a test taken by GBHS seniors, both over financial literacy. The two were part of an effort by the district to develop a financial literacy curriculum. The board has been wrestling with the idea of instigating a class on the subject for some time and discussing whether or not it should be mandatory. Heinrichs said she will take the information back to committees that will formulate a recommendation for the board.
• Approved an incremental improvement  plan for Great Bend High School’s Memorial Stadium which includes a new concession stand on the stadium’s east side (priority number one), replacing the plastic bleachers on the east side with aluminum/steel ones, replacing and adding sidewalks where needed to help people move from the east to west side. Of the cost, $10,000 per year would be paid to the district from the athletic fund through money set aside from money raised through reserve seat ticket prices. The increase was established to fund new stadium seating in 2010 and that should be paid for in about five more years.
• Announced it will advertise for someone to fill one of the two USD 428 spots on the Great Bend Recreation Commission Board. Currently Diana Dawson and Mary Misegadis are school representatives. Dawson’s term expires Dec. 31, and since there is a two-term limit, Dawson will not be eligible for reappointment for the four-year term. The GBRC is a joint school district and the City of Great Bend entity.
• Heard an update on the sale of the Shady Grove school property. Currently, there are three persons showing interest.
• Heard an update on the planned new heating and air conditioning at the District Education Center. The project involves three new targeted units that would replace the one unit that covers the entire building. By controlling what rooms are heated and cooled, the district could cut 25-30 percent off the $16,000 it costs to control the building’s temperature each year, district Business Director Dan Brungardt said. But, it could cost over $60,000 since it requires the new units, duct and electrical work, and could require a reworking of the lighting. If it goes as planned and a bid is approved at the board’s Oct. 25 luncheon meeting, the work could be done by the end of the Christmas break.
• Approved allowing Eisenhower School Principal Tricia Reiser and school nurse Millie Hill to apply for a Healthy Habits for Life grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Foundation. The $995 grant, if awarded, will be used for programs administered during the 2012 calendar year. There is no local match required.
• Chose Board President Dwight Young as the Great Bend delegate to the Kansas Association of School Boards state convention Dec. 2-4 in Overland Park. Wade Babcock was picked as the alternate.