Bartlett board bypasses protocol so employees will have health insurance on time

PHOTO: Oliver Morrison
Board Chair Jeff Norris consults with Barlett' City Schools' attorney, who along with six other attorneys, will be responsible for drafting the new health policy that the board passed this evening.

In a rush to provide its new employees health insurance, Bartlett City Schools board members passed an unfinished health benefits package that they had not yet seen before their meeting Monday.
Bartlett City Schools, which will become one of six new municipal districts in Shelby County this fall, is joining with four other municipal districts and the cities of Bartlett and Colierville to offer new health insurance policies to its employees. Teachers keep their old Shelby County Schools health insurance until Sept. 1 but the district staff’s insurance expires July 1, so the board added the policy at the last minute.
“This will not be the normal course of business moving forward,” said Jeff Norris, the board chair. “This is not ideal to execute these things without allowing you to see them.”
The potential new health care agreement is a complicated process that involves the lawyers of each of the seven entities and takes time, according to board members. “But the attorneys are going to lock themselves in a room and have this done by the end of day tomorrow,” said Norris. Little detail was given about the policy at Monday’s meeting.
The five districts and two cities need to form a joint trust with a board of trustees in order to protect themselves legally and financially, according to Bartlett Superintendent David Stephens. “My  [chief financial officer] looked at the agreement and said I don’t want Bartlett to be responsible for transferring funds for other entities,” Stephens said.
While board members haven’t seen the policy yet, they are comfortable with the broad outlines of the health plan and said the yet-to-be-written parts are just legal details. “There is no expertise on the board that is going to change what happens,” Norris said.
The imminence of the start of its first school year came up again when discussing Stephens’ potential bonus earnings as superintendent. One of his performance goals will be for the year to get off to a good start, as measured on Aug. 28. But board members discussed whether that was enough time to judge his performance.
“What we want to be careful about is not to make an evaluation based on popularity or perception,” said Bryan Woodruff, a board member. “Sometimes a couple of bad bumps in the road catch some ugly press which may not be a reflection of actual performance in that area.”
Other board members disagreed about whether to even expect a great beginning.
“I think our people are not looking for everything to go smooth as silk,” said board member Shirley Jackson. “I think what we’re looking to do is when something happens say, ‘Let’s fix that,’ whatever that is.”
The board chose to push back the evaluation of the superintendents’s job four weeks from the start of the year, according to Norris. “That way we’ll be able to see what bumps occur and how they’re fixed and how quickly they’re fixed,” said Norris.
Norris also quoted Stephens as having said, with all his years of experience, that “the board will know [whether or not the school year is going well]. Your cell phones will know.”
The board started off the meeting by singing Stephens happy birthday and later passed the bonus package, which could be worth as much as $20,000.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.