The Ketchikan School approved four policy revisions Wednesday night, and moved two others forward for second reading, but not before a lengthy discussion about how policy revisions should be brought to the board in the future.

The board, in second reading, unanimously approved a policy revision regarding how public complaints about schools are handled. After a second policy change was brought forward regarding complaints concerning school personnel, School Board President Matt Eisenhower suggested a small amendment to the wording. He then suggested policies be reviewed by the borough attorney before the board’s next meeting. This sparked a lengthy discussion.

School Board Member Sonya Skan says policy revisions and proposed amendments should be vetted before a vote is taken.

“I don’t think it makes sense to vote on them and say that there’s something and then have the attorney vet them because then they’d have to come back before us again to vote on.”

Eisenhower suggested moving items forward and discussing them with the borough attorney prior to the next meeting, noting amendments could be made in second reading.

Skan says if the board wants to set a process, it should be implemented.

“If we’re going to say ‘This is how we’re going to do it’ then let’s do it. Because there could be something missed here and then having to back track is worse than having a clean slate. I like things done clean. And so that’s why I’d make that suggestion.”

Eisenhower asked Superintendent Beth Lougee what would happen if the board did not pass policy motions that evening. Lougee says current policy would remain in place until revisions are approved.

The board voted 6-1 to approve, in second reading, the policy revision regarding complaints with school personnel, along with policy revisions for complaints concerning instructional materials and discrimination. Skan was the lone “no” vote, stating she wasn’t objecting to the policies, but the procedure.

In first reading, the board approved 6-1 policy revisions regarding travel expenses, with Skan voting against the motion. Those items will come back for a second vote.

During public comment, teacher Valerie Brooks, speaking as a private citizen, spoke about policy revisions regarding student use of personal electronic devices. Brooks is concerned about language stating, “no expectation of confidentiality shall exist for any portable electronic device” and that students may be required to open their devices for school staff. She says she believes taking a student’s cell phone and requiring them to unlock it would be illegal. She cited the ruling in a case in Washington state.

“Even if a person is arrested, the 4th Amendment protects illegal search and seizure. And unless they consent, unless they say ‘yes,’ even law enforcement cannot access their phone or cause them to open it without a warrant signed by a judge.”

Board Member Diane Gubatayao made a motion to postpone the item until it could be reviewed by the policy committee and borough attorney. The motion failed 4-3 with Gubatayao, Skan and Board Member Leslie Becker voting in favor of postponement.

Eisenhower suggested language about cell phone access be stricken. If passed, he says the item could be reviewed by the policy committee and borough attorney before the next school board meeting and amendments made at that time.

The main motion to approve revisions to the electronic device use policy passed 5-2, in first reading, with Gubatayao and Skan voting ‘no.’

Also Wednesday, the board approved six teaching contracts for the 2019-2020 school year, an administrative contract with Nick Higson, and hiring Richard McAlpin as director of maintenance.

The board was scheduled to hold an executive session for a non-retained employee appeal hearing. Because the employee was not present, the board voted not to move into executive session. The second session was to discuss negotiations with the Special Service Professionals. Direction was given to staff, but no other actions taken.

The first day of school for district students is Thursday, August 29th.

The next regular school board meeting is August 28th.