The Limestone County Board of Education is reportedly investigating a claim that a teacher and librarian distributed Bibles during school hours at Blue Springs Elementary School, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, Superintendent Barry Carroll reportedly received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union in regard to the allegations, which were brought forth by a concerned parent.

Carroll reportedly said the school system has a policy that all outside materials are placed in a designated area at a school and a student may take any of the materials. He said he was under the impression the school system is following procedures, but plans to investigate and respond to the ACLU.

Because of early deadlines, it is unknown if Carroll discussed the issue at Tuesday’s Board of Education work session. The News Courier will have further updates on this story in Thursday’s paper.

Boosting the band program at Tanner High School was one of many topics discussed Tuesday at the Limestone County Board of Education work session.

Charles Shoulders Jr. said he asked the item be put on the agenda because he represents the Tanner community as a board member and the community has been voicing their concerns surrounding the band program. “For a number of years now it seems as though our program is not making any improvement and that is what the community is very concerned about. Our numbers are not there.”

Shoulders added that he as well as Superintendent Dr. Barry Carroll, Mike Owens and band director Staci Donahoo had a discussion about improving the band a few years ago. He admitted over the years there has been improvement in quality of music, but that numbers are his concern.

“It seems there are a number of students who would like to participate, but for some reason or another they feel deprived or not welcome or just don’t feel they can become a part of it,” Shoulders said. “I ask the question ‘why?’ No one seems to want to confront that question.”

Shoulders said he feels the situation needs to be looked at. “Tanner’s band is probably the smallest band in the system,” he said. “The community would like to see some improvement there.”

Tanner High School has a beginner program that Donahoo said had 30 students in the band program out of the 66 students in the sixth grade this year. “I roughly start with 25 to 30 in that program,” she said. “I do start out with a large beginner group.”

She said that with the help of other band directors in the community she acquired program numbers across the county.

“The population at Tanner is much smaller than the other schools across the county,” she said, adding where she had 66 students in the sixth grade, Ardmore had 142, East Limestone had 175, and Clements had 83. She was unable to get numbers from Elkmont or West Limestone. “We are talking about significant number differences,” she said. “Ardmore had 52 in the beginner program out of 145, East had 54 out 175, Clements had 32 out of 83.”

She added that she sees a decline when students transition to high school and have more opportunities available to them. They are open to agriculture classes, home economics and athletics as well. “My numbers start to drop when they have these opportunities open to them,” said Donahoo.

This year, Tanner’s numbers dropped 53 percent from beginner band to ninth grade, according to Donahoo. Ardmore’s dropped 67 percent. East Limestone dropped 35 percent and Clements dropped 41 percent.

“When you talk about percentages we are all in the same areas,” she said. “The problem with the numbers when you look at them on the field is that we have a smaller student body by a third with some of the schools or at least half.”

Students have to choose because of time constraints, parents and others. Donahoo gave a list of reasons that included schedule conflicts, technical school, work, athletics, time commitment and so on.

Donahoo said because of size she focuses on quality. “We are small, but we are strong,” she said.

Carroll asked Donahoo to begin looking closely at what the issues are that keep the numbers from growing. “I can’t put my finger on what it is, but I’ll say to the board, I do want us to try to do everything we can. You (Donahoo) have to take the lead on that. You have to make it enjoyable.”

Glaze said he believes that they all agree that the quality is good, but the numbers are not so good. “We have to look at the numbers and do what we have to do to get those numbers up,” Glaze said.

Donahoo said she doesn’t understand all the situations that are being brought up, but that she wants to do everything she can to grow the program. She added she tries to talk to students and parents when they decide to drop out of band.

She included that Tanner High School band is involved with a number of competitions where they do well and that she works to recruit band members. Donahoo said she believes part of the problem at Tanner is one brought up by a board member being in the band isn’t as “cool” as it used to be. She said she would like to see Tanner be similar to East Limestone High School where being in the band is considered “cool.” She would love some suggestions to talk up the band program. “The faculty and administration somehow have to help us build that up,” she said.

Approximately 24 students played an instrument on the field at Tanner High School this year.

“I wish we could get more kids involved,” Carroll said. “I hope we can find a way to build those numbers. Whatever it takes, we need to do that.”

Other work session items included:

• Discussing taking time to fully look at the board policy manual and current policies one by one;

• Discussing the opportunity to include parents and PTO members from each school and include more community involvement on Limestone County Board of Education committees such as the calendar committee as well as approving those who serve on the committees;

• Discussing taking time to look at employee workload and support staff at schools;

• Discussing logistics of the schools;

• Discussing utility costs such as the use of air conditioners, refrigerators, microwaves, etc. Board members brought up that if they didn’t see a savings of approximately $8,000 to $10,000 a year from eliminating extra appliances in classrooms, they would possibly revisit the item;

• Discussing reducing costs in specific areas;

• Discussing areas for reporting;

• Discussing standard work, measurements and documentation;

• Discussing a technology plan;

• Discussing lean education;

• Discussing community service organizations for students;

• Discussing sewer/treatment plant issues.


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