DeSoto County School District board members Thursday approved two new board policies aimed at addressing bullying and also defining the amount of time members of the public have to speak and when they may address the board during meetings.
The definition of public comment is a revision to current policies, and the bullying issue is a new district directive.
The Board of Education has one regularly scheduled meeting each month on the first Thursday of the month, typically starting at 3 p.m. The exception to that is when that Thursday is a holiday, when it moves to the Monday after that Thursday.
The board also holds what it calls a "recessed meeting" between each monthly scheduled meeting. That is considered a continuation of the scheduled meeting held earlier in the month. The date of the recessed meeting is announced at the end of the regularly scheduled meeting.
Public comment is accepted at the first meeting of the month but not at the recessed meeting because that meeting is considered a continuation of the regular session.
Under the policy changes approved at Thursday's session, public comment remains assigned only to the first meeting of the month. That part of the meeting will be limited to a 30-minute period where residents may address the board for up to five minutes.
Prior approval is needed for participants to address the board for longer than five minutes up to 10 minutes. To do that, the Board Secretary or Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent must be notified first and forms completed.
Those forms must be returned to the district Central Services offices by 4 p.m. a week ahead of the meeting.
Any discussion concerning student or personnel affairs is always limited to executive session only and not aired in public session.
The policy on bullying defines means and methods of a student reporting a complaint of what they consider bullying or harassment in schools from a student, teacher, staff member, counselor or administrator.
A complaint form is provided and meetings are scheduled with parents or guardians being informed about issues involving their child. Appeal procedures are also defined.
Thursday, board members also heard from district Physical Plant Director Jerry White, who said that summer projects are ready for the Aug. 7 start of classes, with the exception of what White called "one little hiccup."
"What we feared has happened," White said about the classroom additions at Hernando Elementary School. "This school is not going to be ready at the start, which is disappointing to all of us. They still have a ton of work there and we may be able to take possession of it around Aug. 15 and Aug. 19 would be the earliest we could get into that building."
DCS is adding four new classrooms at Hernando Elementary, but while the rooms won't be ready on the opening day of classes, contingencies for incoming students have been made.
"Everybody is going to be in a regular classroom the first day," Supt. Cory Uselton said. "They'll just be moved in later on.”
White added, "She (principal Renee Triplett) has had a plan for this all along."
Other classroom addition work has been done at Oak Grove Central, Lewisburg Primary and Elementary schools.
School officials are already getting ready for more growth in Mississippi's largest school district next year. Board members approved design work and bid advertising for eight new classrooms at DeSoto Central Middle School and also at Hernando Middle School, along with four new classrooms at Hernando Hills Elementary School.
Those projects are to be completed in time for the start of school in 2020.
In other action, the school board approved the tax levy order for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 that Uselton pointed out includes no millage or tax increases.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.