Board appalled by Pledge rule Members claim state requirements have tied their hands on emotional issue

Gwen Bittner / For the Chronicle

Members of the school board began the process of altering the daily Pledge of Allegiance procedure Tuesday and they’re not happy about it.

The board is required to rewrite the policy in accordance with Florida Statute 1003.44 which permits, with written request by a parent, students to sit during the Pledge without placing their hand on their heart.

“I have major issue with this policy,” Board member Thomas Kennedy said. “I know by statute I’m supposed to approve something. I’m going to have a very difficult time voting for this and I know that it’s going to be a requirement, but I just cannot support the fact that all we are asking for is to be respectful. We stand out of respect.”

“I totally agree with Thomas,” Board member Linda Powers said. “You stand out of respect, so this bothers me.”

“The legislature is requiring us to do this and put it in policy,” Kennedy said. “They put it that we must pass policy and I don’t know why they put it that far.”

Students were previously allowed to be excused from reciting the daily Pledge but were required to stand. The mandate permits students to sit.

“It is a big shock to me,” Board member Doug Dodd said. “I hated the fact that we can’t make students recite but I understand the reason behind that. I was very surprised that the legislature had passed that.”

“It places staff in an awkward position,” Assistant Superintendent Mike Mullen said.

Dodd suggested adding words to acknowledge that the policy is in accordance with Florida statute, and not the desire of the board.

The board will confirm edits and vote on the policy at a future board meeting.

Recruitment trip finds new teachers

Director of Human Resources Suzanne Swain presented the board with an update on out-of-state staffing recruitments. District staff traveled to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston and Minneapolis between late March and early April to interview attractive teaching candidates. Numerous contracts were offered and a total of 14 educators were hired from the trip.

Renaissance reports SRMI improvements

Renaissance Center staff reported significant improvements in the three years Marion County company Silver River Mentoring and Instruction (SRMI) has lead the school. Renaissance Executive Director Mike Nebesnyk and Principal Heather Nieb reported that daily attendance at the school is up, there is a down trend of out of school suspensions (OSS), and students desire to stay at the center rather than return to their base school. Nieb also mentioned success in rewarding students who make high percentages in behavior with off campus field trips.

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