Polk County Board of Education, March 2018

Gift baskets were presented to the Polk County Board of Education as part of the appreciation shown for their service during the annual celebration of School Board Appreciation week. (Kevin Myrick/SJ)

Board of Education members were kept busy during their regular session last week, but didn’t take too much time deciding matters and tabling others that will require procedural time to consider and wrap up in April.

Two different policy changes that are acting only as supplemental guidelines involving faculty and staff use of social media and another to update the facilities rental policy were approved unanimously.

The draft document of the new guidelines for social media use recognize how quickly the changes in technology are taking place, and therefore instead of seeking to put in place policies that would not be effective against those ever-changing conditions, they instead sought to “ develop a culture of innovation, idea-sharing, problem-solving and creativity.”

So what the new guidelines instead seek to do is remind faculty and staff — and to some extent students as well — that their comments online on sites like Facebook and Twitter are open, and that promoting good behavior in words and deeds online is the ultimate goal.

The guidelines seek that “All electronic communication must be done in a positive, respectful manner. This includes word choices, tone, grammar and subject matter that model the standards and integrity of a district professional,” according to the document. Additionally, it asks employees to consider one piece of advice that all should remember when it comes to social media use: think before posting.

“If an employee is angry or passionate about a subject, it may not be the time to share thoughts in a post. Individuals should delay positing until they are calm and clear-headed,” the documentation stated. “Posting negative comments while angry may put the employee’s effectiveness as an educator at risk.”

Guidelines also remind Polk School District employees to be mindful of copyright laws when posting any material, to avoid using personal devices in the classroom for instructional purposes, and that social media is a secondary, not primary communication tool with parents and students. They also called on employees to be good “ambassadors for Polk School District.”

“Employees do not have control of what others may post on social media sites; therefore, it is important to be aware that conduct in private life may affect your professional life,” the documentation stated. “Employees should be vigilant about what others post about them. If necessary, employees should take steps to remove comments or pictures that may pose a risk.”

Because they are supplemental guidelines, they don’t require the same rules of having a policy be tabled before they are voted on for a month. The same went for changes to forms used by the district when organizations or individuals request to rent facilities when not in use by students, or for community meetings.

Board members approved changes being sought to update those forms to include the new Hon Company Community Room at the Polk County College and Career Academy campus in Cedartown, which will now also be available for use for public functions if necessary.

One item that did have to be tabled for a month was an update sought from the Georgia School Board Association (GSBA) to the policies put in place for homeless students in the district.

That policy, which matches language used by others around the state, was approved to be tabled for 30 days until it can be brought back up for an up or down vote during the April 10 meeting. It provides guidelines and resources that are to be made available to those students who don’t have a permanent place to call home, but also clarifies language intended to serve metropolitan populations in Atlanta, as an example.

Board members voted to send Chris Culver as their delegate to the GSBA coming up on June 8 and June 9 in Savannah, and named board member Jane Hamlett as the alternate should Culver not be able to attend and cast a vote.

They also approved field trip requests for coming competitions for the students in the SkillsUSA and FBLA programs. State competitions for the groups coming up in Atlanta were given unanimous approval for their travel this week, starting on March 22 for SkillsUSA members in auto, welding and public safety courses, and March 23 through March 25 for the FBLA members.

The latest financial report provided by Financial Director Tammy McDonald put the figures through January 2018 at just shy of $9.1 million in the district’s general fund balance. Revenue was .83 percent less than what was budgeted for the year, while expenditures were down more than 11 percent as the district completed more than half of the 2018 fiscal year through January 31.