Franklin district issues statement on student safety

The topic of student safety was once again brought to the floor at Monday’s Franklin School Board meeting.

“I’m here tonight pleading that those who know better do better,” a concerned parent said.

The same parent spoke in front of the board last week about an alleged assault between her child and another student.

The parent said Monday that when children do not feel safe, “they turn to drugs, they turn to self harm and it leads to suicide completion and by golly that’s not going to be my kid.”

“Please, please address this,” the woman said as she ended her appeal.

A statement from the district was later read by school district Superintendent Pamela Dye and school board President Brian Spaid. Here is the text of the statement.

“The Franklin Area School District feels compelled to respond to recent comments made about student safety in the District’s schools.

“Public school districts are precluded by federal privacy laws from disclosing to the public information pertaining to specific students. As a result, the District cannot clarify inaccurate statements or mischaracterizations of fact. The district can, however, assure the public that educating students and keeping those students safe while they are being educated are its two highest priorities.

“The district has policies in place which address and prohibit student bullying and harassment. Those policies have been and will continue to be implemented and enforced by the district.”

Board recognizes teacher

In other business Monday, the board recognized Franklin High School gifted support teacher Timothy Heffernan for receiving the Public Education Innovation Award from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. The award was presented to Heffernan last week at a conference in Erie.

Heffernan, who has taken the lead in robotics education in the district, detailed the strides the district is making in the robotics field.

“There are about 800 kids that are going to get their hands on robots,” Heffernan said.

He explained that he’d been in recent talks with heads of robotics companies who complained of not being able to keep their employees, and further talks with universities that are interested in the program.

“This is so much more than robotics,” Heffernan said. “We can change the way we educate in western Pennsylvania.”

Board member Cheryl Ferry said she’s seeing the way Heffernan’s program affects kids through Facebook posts sharing his achievement.

“They say, look at my old teacher,” she said. “You’re changing students.”

Comprehensive plan

In another matter, Dye gave an update on her comprehensive action plan for the 2018-19 year.

Dye said the plan explores opportunities for in-school based mental health options, building a better online presence and creating a more updated website that will integrate calendars for all the schools.

The plan would also create bi-annual newsletters and weekly emails to parents, keep taxpayers who have no children in the district informed in district matters and have parent-teacher conferences with all grade levels.

The board also approved a motion to compensate retired teachers $125 a day for their services as substitute teachers, and the panel approved by a 6-2 vote supplemental contracts ranging from $130 to $1,046.90 a year for 16 coaches, advisors and teacher mentors.