COLUMBIANA - Beginning next year, Columbiana high school students in extracurriculars will be subject to drug testing.
The board of education put its final stamp of approval on the program this week. Drug testing began being discussed among the board at the close of last year following a presentation by Great Lakes Biomedical.
The company was brought in at the suggestion of Superintendent Don Mook, who has said the intention is not to come down hard on students, but give them another reason to say no to drugs.
Under the program all extracurricular students will be tested on a specific date, which they will know. Random tests will be administered following that.
The district has agreed to spend only up to $9,000 for the drug testing through Great Lakes Biomedical for the school year. The company was also selected by the Lisbon School District for its drug testing in June of 2012 and the South Range School District in May of this year.
The program offered by Great Lakes allows for student self-referrals, which is when a student admits to drug use prior to being tested. A student will not be penalized for self-referrals, although they may only do that twice during their high school years.
Students must sign consent forms before testing, and if they refuse, they will not be able to participate in the desired extracurricular activities.
Test results will remain confidential and will not be included on any permanent record, with positive results shared with the student's parent(s)/guardian first and then a designated school official.
The student will then be sent to counseling and also automatically participate in the next five drug tests.
Prescription medications will not count against a student and parents have the option to challenge positive results. The testing will also not impede any student's progress toward graduation.
Mook said the intent of the program is to intervene.
"The key is to give kids a reason to say no. Parents need to know if this is happening. The only way they can help their child is if they know. It moves us away from zero tolerance, which is probably what everybody needs to get away from," Mook said.
While drug use has always been a problem not only in the county but the nation, it is now becoming a "relevant problem" for school districts, as its popularity increases, he added.
The district will evaluate the program in its first year and make changes in the future if they are necessary, he said.
In other business, the board heard from Wendy Pancake and Shawn Kramer who urged them to reconsider a one year leave of absence for teacher Darcy Quinlan who has been offered a full ride scholarship to Slipper Rock University to earn a master's degree in adaptive physical education.
Pancake said Quinlan requested the absence but it was denied by Mook, which she believed was on the basis that sabbatical leave is not given to teachers until they have reached five years employment.
"I know in the contract there is a section that talks about other leaves that could be granted ... I am asking you to reconsider. Miss. Quinlan has been a good role model. She has been there for the students whenever they need her," Pancake said.
She then read a letter written by her daughter who graduated this year and played on the soccer team Quinlan coached.
"She not only taught us the game of soccer. She taught us skills," she wrote.
Pancake said Quinlan's additional education will be a benefit to the district, which added to its multi-handicapped unit two years ago.
"The opportunity she has been given ... could be a huge opportunity for our school," she said.
Kramer, whose son was also coached by Quinlan, agreed that if the district loses her by not allowing the leave of absence it will be a mistake.
"Losing her at Columbiana would be detrimental to the school system," he said.
The board did not act on the matter, although it did award a one-year supplemental contract to Quinlan for Head Varsity Girls Soccer Coach for the 2014-15 school year.
One year supplementals were also awarded to:
- Erin Heasley, athletic director and outdoor athletic facilities manager; Larry Baughman, assistant athletic director/ticket manager; Brock Miller, football middle school coach; Nancy Tirpak, seventh-grade volleyball coach; Brandi Brown, eighth-grade volleyball coach; Greg Kibler, head cross country coach; Robert Spaite, head varsity football coach; Ernie Yacovone, head varsity boys soccer coach; Ron Moschella, head varsity girls basketball coach; and, Chris Canale, head high school wrestling coach.
The next board meeting was set for 6:30 p.m. July 8.