The North Platte Public school board approved “Smart Casual” attire for teachers and administrators Monday, after two split votes and a failed amendment.

Smart Casual, as defined in the employee handbook, is a professional dress code combining trendy clothing with classic staples.

Kevin Mills, the Director of Human Resources, said that hoodies, crocs, flip flops, and torn denim will not be allowed.

During the discussion, Vice President Emily Garrick proposed an amendment to allow colored denim, but eliminating blue denim.

Secretary Cindy O’Connor supported the motion. However, it failed on an equally divided vote of 3-3.

Garrick, O’Connor, and Angela Blaesi were in favor. Skip Altig and Matthew Pederson voted no. President Joann Lundgreen took some time to decide, but ultimately voted against the amendment too.

Then, the boarded voted 4-2 to approve new “business smart” policy, with Garrick and Blaesi casting the opposing votes.

Long-term goals

The board unanimously voted to adopt three goals, which they will begin working toward.

The objectives are:  

  • Advocacy: to advocate for children, public education, learning, and equity to support improved achievement for all students.  
  • District resources: to align and manage district resources in a responsible manner to meet goals and promote growth of instruction and student learning. 
  • Accountability and student achievement: continuously monitor the progress of goals, utilizing data to support growth; and promote shared accountability for quality instruction and student learning. 

The board will create a timeline and action plan for each goal in the coming months and determine what data and evidence will be needed to track progress.

Policy updates

Also, the board voted to adopt 21 policy updates to meet new state or federal requirements.

Policies on discrimination, open records, meeting notices, complaints and medical leave are among those updated.

Here’s a rundown:

2006 – Complaint procedure

Refining the language and clearly outlining the board’s responsibilities. The addition of the board’s role, it allows the board to consider appeals if the complaint pertains to board policy, the budget, or any school expenditures approved by the board or are obligatory as per the law, policy, or contract.

2008 – Meetings

A meeting notice can be posted on the school website or in a public area within the district if a newspaper notice cannot be timely published.

2009 – Public participation

The public must be given an opportunity to speak at each board meeting.

3003.1 – Bidding for construction, remodeling, repair, or related projects financed with federal funds

The term “small purchases” is changed to “simplified acquisitions.” Also, veteran-owned businesses are preferred vendors and board members are prohibited from soliciting or accepting money from contractors or subcontractors.

3004.1 – Fiscal management for purchasing and procurement using federal funds

Revised similar to policy 3003.1. Also, reports are required of any loss, damage, or theft of equipment that could impact the program and permitting the retention of equipment bought with federal grants.

3011 – Transportation

This policy has been removed.

3032 – Fees for providing school district records

No labor fees will be charged to Nebraska residents who request copies of public records, for up to eight hours of work by school staff.

3033 – Lending textbooks to children enrolled in private schools

This policy has been removed.

3053 – Nondiscrimination

Prohibits employment discrimination against pregnant women and requires reasonable accommodations, in addition to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, marital status, and retaliation.

3057 – Title IX

Reduced the number of people in the district involved in making a determination of sex discrimination in any education program or activity.  

4011 – Employee leave under family and medical leave act (FMLA)

Modifies the FMLA period from a fixed 12 months to a “rolling” 12-month period. For example, if an employee uses all their allowed FMLA leave before the end of the year, they would only be eligible for more leave after 12 months have passed.

4053 – Conflict of interest

New procedures for employees earning an annual salary exceeding $150,000. Employees are required to evaluate whether there is a conflict of interest in any decision they make. A conflict of interest would be present if the employee’s decision could lead to financial gain or loss for themselves, their business, or a family member. If such a conflict exists, the employee must prepare a written explanation of the matter, provide a copy to the board of education’s secretary, and refrain from participating in the decision.

5001 – Compulsory attendance and excessive absenteeism – traditional approach

Mental illness is an acceptable reason for an excused absence. A physician’s verification is required after four consecutive days of absence.

5004 – Option enrollment

The definition of elementary school has been revised to include grades K-5, with middle school comprising grades 6-8 and high school grades 9-12. 

5005 – Option transportation

The policy change designates the superintendent of schools as the point of contact for foster children.

5008 – Pregnant or parenting students

The policy now includes a nondiscrimination statement and Title IX information.

5053 – Student discipline 

Any disciplinary action must comply with other relevant lawful requirements. The policy now defines weapons and firearms, and provides exceptions for carrying a firearm, such as for Reserve Officers Training Corps members during training and individuals receiving instruction under the direct supervision of an adult. It also details repercussions and confiscation procedures for firearms and weapons and reports to law enforcement. Additionally, the policy now incorporates “deep fakes” in the terms related to violence, possession of pornography, and sexting.

5049 – Firearms and weapons

This policy was moved to policy 5053. 

5052 – School wellness

The policy now includes a definition of competitive food and specifies its applicability.

6031 – Emergency exclusion

New timelines for requested hearings.

6036 – Reading instruction and intervention services

New details about the Nebraska Department of Education’s professional learning system and mandates NDE to submit dyslexia-related information by July 1.

More updates could come, as Gov. Jim Pillen intends to convene a special legislative session aimed at property tax relief. The session is expected to begin Thursday, July 25, with bill introduction during the first three days.

Student handbook

Also, the board unanimously approved the 2024-25 Student Handbook and the 2024-25 Employee Handbook.

The student handbook includes policy changes regarding firearms and attendance.

The employee handbook mainly includes name changes and the addition of the updated dress code for teachers. 

Public hearings: Fees and civics

The board conducted brief public hearings on the student fee policy and American Civics. Financial Director Stuart Simpson said that the student fee policy outlines all the fees the district can charge.

The Directors of Teaching and Learning, Vikki Carlson and Lyndsey Douglas, reported that this year’s American Civics committee includes school board members Blaesi, O’Connor, and Altig. They said that the committee’s first meeting took place Feb 12, during which they reviewed the seven responsibilities of the committee.

No public comment was made Monday during either hearing. 

© 2024 The North Platte Bulletin. All rights reserved.