Published in the August 10, 2017 edition


NORTH READING — The School Committee approved four policy revisions recently.

One of the revised policies is Policy DK, which pertains to the school system’s student activity accounts. Finance Director Michael Connelly said the policy was revamped due to updated state regulations.

“We are required to have an outside auditor audit student activity accounts at least once every three years,” said Connelly. “They were audited internally last year, and the town accountant helped perform that audit.”

Connelly said Melanson Heath conducted an outside audit this year.

“I think the audit went well given it was the first outside audit we have had for student activity accounts in a number of years,” said Connelly. “The effort is to have our new policy be in compliance.”

Additionally, Connelly said Policy DK works to address “five findings” that Melanson Heath identified. He said the areas that needed to be updated pertain to procedural matters.

“Anytime there is a finding, it might seem like we are doing something wrong,” said Connelly. “I have been through several outside audits in several other districts, and having five findings was actually pretty good. We are working to address those, but I would say Melanson Health feel like we are in good shape.”

Connelly said the items that needed to be addressed are matters the School Department is undertaking, but were previously not included in Policy DK and its regulations, DK-R.

“For example, there was a need to add some language that student activity accounts need to be approved on an annual basis by the School Committee,” said Connelly. “We have not really been doing that, and that is a regulation change. We are prepared to do that this fall.”

Connelly said the School Business Office will be submitting reports on student activity accounts to the school board either twice a year or quarterly.

“(Melanson Heath) also want to see the account balances in the report,” said Connelly.

Connelly also said the revised Policy DK seeks to establish an approval form for student field trips. The policy will also require expense reports to be submitted after large field trips take place.

“These are some things that will require additional training, which we will do this fall,” said Connelly. “We will be prepared to do that.”

School Committee Chairman Mel Webster said he’s pleased the audit “addressed some of my concerns.” He inquired if the revised policy will burden the School Department’s staff.

“I don’t think so,” said Connelly. “We already have the system and structure in place, and in some cases it’s formalizing some of the procedures. It’s a little bit of extra work, but I think we can get there.”

School Committee member Scott Buckley, who serves on the Policy Subcommittee, agreed.

“It tightens up a lot of things,” said Buckley.

Student discipline policy

The school board also revised Policy JC and JC-R, which pertains to student discipline.

Superintendent of Schools Jon Bernard said the School Department’s student discipline policy needed to be updated because of changes in state law. The school system’s attorney, Liam O’Connell, helped Bernard combine two policies into “one comprehensive policy.”

In response to a question from School Committee member Julie Koepke, Bernard said the revised policy will allow student discipline meetings to be recorded if a request is made.

Non-discrimination policies

The School Committee voted to approve a revised Policy GAAA and its regulations, Policy GAAA-R.

Bernard said the policy and regulations pertain to prohibiting discrimination and harassment in the school system. The policy and regulations apply to employees.

Additionally, the School Committee voted to approve Policy JCAD and its regulations, JCAD-R. Similar to Policy GAAA, this revised policy prevents discrimination and harassment. However, this policy and regulations pertain to students and the general public.