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PTA president concerned about smoking on school grounds

January 20, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Smoking on school grounds was one of the concerns Washington County Council of PTAs President Jenny Belliotti expressed to the Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday night.

In her first report to the new seven-member School Board, Belliotti asked the board to quickly adopt "Character Counts," an ethics program used in many schools.

She recommended the School Board expand its communications office and urged members to pay close attention to the new budget process. She also said schools should have a uniform response to student misbehavior.

Belliotti said she received complaints from parents who saw school employees smoking in front of students after hours. In one case, students smoked with an adviser, she said.

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"That is not acceptable," she said. "The rules need to be looked at if the policy is not set in stone. It's out there and it's happening."

Board member B. Marie Byers said smoking is never permitted on school property.

"Sometimes the policy is not what happens," Belliotti said.

Board member Herbert Hardin said enforcement is difficult after school hours.

Belliotti asked the board to "raise behavior standards as we raise academic standards."

In cases of student harassment, there is not a consistent response from school to school, she said. The board should develop clear and concise policy, she said.

"Character Counts" is a nationwide initiative that attempts to teach values such as respect, responsibility and fairness. It is endorsed in the strategic plan, Belliotti said.

Local organizations like 4-H and YMCA use elements of the program, which has been successful in Frederick and Montgomery county schools, according to Belliotti.

"It is something that would be easily implemented in the curriculum," she said. "The community wants this. We would also just like to have your support."

The new budget process can work, but some problems need to be worked out, Belliotti said. She said she got complaints from parents who were asked by principals to sign off on the budget proposal without reading it.

She asked board members to "seek parent participation in that process ... parents who are active and will share the info."

Belliotti also said the School Board should hire more communications staff instead of a marketing firm. Community Relations Specialist Donna Messina's predecessor had a secretary, she noted.

"There is an opportunity to do more in that office with additional staff," she said.

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