School board member: Internet filter too strict

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

CLOVERDALE - Parents and teachers go to some Cloverdale School Board members with concerns about athletics. They go to others with coaching issues.

But when it comes to technology in the district, they go to Todd Whitlock.

Whitlock asked the board Monday night to address what he sees as problems with the Internet filters on school computers, as well as a handful of other issues.

The filters on computers that students use are far too restrictive, the board member said.

"We are required under Indiana state law to block pornography," he said. "We are blocking much more than pornography."

School counselors have complained to Whitlock that scholarship information they send to students is often blocked by the school's firewall, he added.

Whitlock also suggested that the district examine allowing students to access social networking Web sites like MySpace on a limited basis. He cited a report from the National School Boards Association that argued that schools need to embrace and enlist the help of such Web sites since they are so popular with students.

Finally, Whitlock expressed concern that computers the school district bought with grant money for its high school English classrooms have not yet been set up.

Superintendent Carrie Milner said the district is still waiting for the desks for the machines to arrive.

After Whitlock's presentation Milner said she would "digest" the information he presented, including several handouts, and would try to have the issue on the agenda next month.

Also, in a unanimous decision, the school board voted to increase the pay of substitute teachers by $5 for the second year in a row. This means that in 2008, substitutes will make $60 per day - $70 for licensed teachers. This puts Cloverdale's substitute teacher salaries at the highest in the county, Milner said.

The board voted two to four against hiring a local agent for the school corporation's liability insurance. Cloverdale Schools already has an agent for the policy, just not one who lives in the community, Milner told the board. Whitlock and board member James F. Sharp were the minority votes.

Members unanimously approved paying $25,000 into an endowment fund. By making the payment, the Putnam County Foundation will match Cloverdale's money with an additional $15,000. This will make the total endowment fund $45,0000, Milner said.

The board also adopted a measure that would allow the district to buy three buses through a cooperative. The cooperative could save as much as $3,800 per bus.

In a 6-0 vote, board President Dave Brinkman was absent, members also decided to use $125,000 from Cloverdale Schools' rainy day fund to pay down all but $12,000 in debt the district accumulated from leasing technology equipment. This will allow the corporation to close out the lease by the end of the year.

The board also honored three students of the month. Third-grader Ryan Heavener was described by his teacher as an "excellent student" who always comes to school "eager to learn with a smile on his face." Eighth-grader Hannah Ramey was described as a "model student" and a "very bright young lady." In fact, so many teachers wanted to comment on Ramey that Counselor Linda Nowling had to decrease the font size of the brief about her to fit them all on the page. Finally, junior Maria Skiles, was described as an "artistic" college-bound student who, as an eight grader, wrote an entire fiction novel in an independent study class.

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