April 08, 2020

Sumner to have freshman girls basketball> Board considers canine drug search policy

EAST SULLIVAN — In its first meeting of the new year, the school board at Sumner Memorial High School spent more than two hours working through a hefty agenda.

The board voted to create a freshman girls basketball team next year, just as Ellsworth High School did this fall. It also discussed the draft for a canine drug search policy and a proposal to construct another building to house the superintendent’s office, which currently operates out of the crowded high school.

Half a dozen parents turned out to support the proposal for a third basketball team, which was approved unanimously. This year, 11 freshman girls are playing on Sumner’s two teams, and about a dozen eighth-graders are expected to try out next year.

English teacher and parent Bob Marshall said many girls don’t try out because they’re intimidated and assume they won’t make the junior varsity team.

“If they know [the freshman team] is there, it gives them something to shoot for,” agreed Principal Katie Donovan. The school already has three boys basketball teams.

In his monthly report, Union 96 Superintendent Harvey Kelley updated the board on plans for a one-story building, to be constructed behind the student parking lot, for the superintendent’s office and possibly the special education offices. It would give the school the space to start up a special education program instead of paying $65,000 to send those students to Ellsworth High School, as it did this year.

Kelley has been working on a canine drug search policy, at the request of board members, since the fall. At this meeting, several board members said they were uncomfortable bringing police dogs into the school, and wondered if that would really solve the problem.

“I’m against any kind of canine search at this school,” said David Glass. “I think it’s bad form.” Other board members said they felt the drug use among students was becoming more flagrant. Music teacher Jan Dodge, who has been at the school 18 years, agreed. She said she had seen a student smoking a joint in the janitor’s area during lunch.

While the school has drug education in the curriculum and counseling services available, board members said they believed more enforcement would send a stronger message of non-tolerance.

“Obviously all the programs we have aren’t doing a good job,” said Lewis Pinkham. “If we don’t do something, it’s sending a clear message that we don’t care.”

The board voted 8-2 to keep working on a canine search policy. Kelley warned the board that legally it could be on thin ice if it used the dogs to sniff students’ personal possessions, such as bookbags and coats, and not just lockers.

The board also approved a job description for the school’s music director and informally agreed to pay Jan Dodge roughly $185 more for the added responsibilities: supervising the band at 10, not nine, basketball games, and at two Memorial Day parades each year. Dodge has been organizing the Memorial Day performances for years, but she said the school board has waffled from year to year on whether to pay her extra for that day.

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