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Ironton School Board approves change

Ironton High School students may be taking more classes each day, as long as their teachers approve.

Friday, February 22, 2002

Ironton High School students may be taking more classes each day, as long as their teachers approve.

The Ironton School Board Thursday evening approved a plan to increase the daily work load from six classes to seven, beginning in the fall of 2002.

But the change may be in violation of the board’s contract with the Ironton Teachers Association, which has the option of filing a grievance in response to the matter.

Ironton High School principal Dean Nance says adding that one class each day would help some students collect enough credits to meet the state requirements for graduation.

The State of Ohio Department of Education requires 21 credits in specific areas for graduation. If an Ironton student takes six classes each year for four years, this would equal 24 credits. But Nance says 24 is a little deceiving.

"We are required to offer two half-credit physical education courses – one in the freshman year, and one in the sophomore year," he said. "Together, those two classes, over a two-year span, equals only one credit, not two. This reduces a student’s chances of collecting enough credits to graduate."

Students who opt for vocational education training further minimize their chances to earn credit, even though they are in school and taking approved classes. Nance says some are getting tutoring in English and other subjects, just to be able to earn the required credits and graduate with their peers.

Further, students who have learning difficulties are challenged even more. If they fail even two classes, this could be enough to jeopardize their chances of graduating.

Nance says this change would put Ironton schools in line with neighboring districts such as Dawson Bryant and Saint Joseph, who already offer seven classes a day.

But board member Kathy McGinnis expressed concern about whether the change in class load would violate the district’s contract with teachers. "Do we need to negotiate this before we approve it?" McGinnis asked.

Ironton Education Association President Mary Ann Philabaun said that this move to seven classes would be an unapproved change in working conditions. "If the teachers wanted to grieve this, I would have to do it."

But board member Teresa Parker asked if the contract stipulated that teachers would be required to work a certain number of hours, or a certain number of classes per day.

Philabaun answered that the contact requires teacher approval for any changes in working conditions, and that some teachers have talked to her about this, since the matter has been discussed before.

School Superintendent Stephen Kingery, who supported the idea, said the board needs to take action now, to give administrators the time to implement the change by the start of the school year in August, adding that the current contract with the association expires this summer, and the matter can be negotiated then.

Philabaun countered that in the past, contract negotiations have often drug on well past the beginning on the school year, in which case the two sides often are forced to revert to the existing contact. So the issue of contact violation could rear its head again.

High School activities dominated much of the evening’s discussion. The board revoked both the high school and middle school’s constitutions for cheerleaders.

Nance said the constitutions set cheerleading apart from other school activities, even though he views it as being no different from athletics or clubs.

"I would like to see a code of conduct that would apply to all school activities, and have it included as part of the student handbook."

The code of conduct would include rules for eligibility and behavior.

Board member Robert Pleasant commended the city’s cheerleading teams for their hard work and successes at recent competitions. McGinnis joined Pleasant in lauding the

young ladies’ efforts, and invited them to the next meeting so board members could officially recognize their achievements.