Board of Education reviews playground vendors and policy changes

Students representing the GSA proposed a non-discrimination policy change and the board approved ABCreative inc. for playground renovation


By John Lehan

Assistant superintendent Alvie Cater introduces GSA representatives junior Madelyn Hodes and senior Alisha Ratzloff to the board. “The success we have had as a Board of Education is directly attributed to the wonderful families we have who share their opinions,” Cater said. “We have to remind ourselves each and every day we are here, first and foremost, for students and our families.”

John Lehan, JagWire reporter/photographer

The Board of Education approved ABCreative inc. for upcoming elementary school playground renovation. Additionally, junior Madelyn Hodes and senior Alicia Ratzloff of the GSA proposed a non-discrimination policy change, which the board will vote on next month. The board also recognized staff members on Monday, Feb. 4.

By John Lehan
Riverview Elementary principal Beth Mildren and superintendent Frank Harwood recognize Riverview Elementary third grade teacher Carolyn Moore.

All elementary schools in the district will receive playground renovation as part of the bond passed on May 7, 2018. Renovations will replace existing rubber chips with turf akin to football fields. Three elementary schools will receive renovation in the summer of 2019, with the remaining four getting renovations in the summer of 2020. According to Director of Facilities Steve Deghand, ABCreative inc. was approved because they only work on playgrounds and have worked with the district in the past. Cost will be discussed during next month’s board meeting.

Additionally, students representing the Gay-Straight Alliance proposed adding the phrase “sexual orientation, gender identity” after the word “sex” in the USD232 non-discrimination policy in order to support the LGBTQ community. The proposal required discussion with the board about specific location for the added language.

Hodes feels the change is an important step for communal inclusion.

“[The proposed policy change] affects a very large group of people across the whole district,” Hodes said. “This can go a long way to make people feel more included and more a part of the community.”

By John Lehan
GSA representatives junior Madelyn Hodes and senior Alisha Ratzloff address the board with their proposal to add “sexual orientation, gender identity” following the word “sex” in USD232’s non-discrimination policy.

Hodes and Ratzloff said school districts in Topeka and Missouri have implemented similar policy successfully, and that the change would be a symbol of support from the district to make a statement.

Superintendent Frank Harwood had discussed the proposal with the Gay-Straight Alliance prior to the meeting, and said the proposal does not address an active problem.

“The most important [takeaway] is we want our policies to be inclusive of all of our students,” Harwood said. “There is not necessarily a problem going on, but [we want] people to feel included and be part of our community.”

Assistant Superintendent Alvie Cater, who introduced Hodes and Ratzloff, felt the proposal was beneficial for both parties.

“Anytime we can get students involved in [policy] is a great opportunity, not only for our board to interact with students but also for our students to get involved in how the business of a school district functions,” Cater said.

Hodes said the board was welcoming, but speaking was still “nerve wracking,” although less than expected.

“[The board was] very friendly and encouraging. It was a lot easier to actually talk than I had built it up to be,” Hodes said.

Gay-Straight Alliance sponsor Jeff Wieland wished Hodes and Ratzloff had finalized the specific location in the policy to change before the meeting but otherwise felt they spoke well.

“It would’ve been nice if they actually had the language set to go as they could have,” Wieland said. “Other than that I thought they did a nice job of explaining why [the policy change] was important to them.”

Harwood encourages student participation because it pushes the board to go beyond the above and beyond.

“We encourage [student policy change proposals] because the policies we have are meant to be there for students, staff and families,” said Harwood. “It shows this is not just something that we are doing because we have to, but because it really makes a difference.”

The board will vote on the proposed change next meeting on Monday, March 4. According to Wieland, the GSA is excitedly awaiting next meeting’s decision.

“We are looking forward to seeing what happens next meeting and seeing if it moves forward,” Wieland said. “It would be a positive step for the district, for schools and for students.”


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