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Revisions to code of conduct are proposed at Batavia school budget hearing

BATAVIA – On an evening when no one spoke either for or against a $43 million budget adopted by the School Board, Superintendent Christopher J. Dailey revealed recommendations to change the district’s code of conduct to include self-defense and to add powdered alcohol to the list of banned substances.

Speaking at a public hearing on the spending plan Tuesday night, Dailey and Business Administrator Scott C. Rozanski outlined the budget, which calls for a tax increase of 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about $31.50 per year for a house assessed at $90,000.

While the tax levy did not change from this year’s budget, the tax rate will go up slightly because of a decrease in taxable assessed values, primarily as a result of the Alternative Veterans’ Tax Exemption that was passed last fall, effective for the 2015-16 school year, Rozanski said.

The budget would restore three teacher positions and seven teacher’s aides, and include a proposition to increase busing eligibility for students at John Kennedy Intermediate School and Batavia High School.

Another issue on the ballot, which will go before the public Tuesday, is the establishment of a 10-year, $7.5 million capital reserve fund. “The capital reserve fund represents a change in funding philosophy per the state comptroller’s audit recommendations for (the local share of) all future capital projects,” Dailey said.

After his budget presentation, Dailey shared the findings of a committee of administrators, teachers, students and parents that explored the schools’ code of conduct, considering elements of fairness, clarity, application and effectiveness.

The panel recommended that language covering self-defense be added to the code. “We found that there wasn’t much out there about self-defense,” Dailey said. “We finally did an online search and found something (that was used as a guide) in Texas.”

The self-defense clause states that students have a right to protect themselves from uninvited physical harm or injury when such danger is imminent, when the student is unable to escape the conflict and when the aggression is unprovoked. Retaliation is not a form of self-defense.

Dailey also said the rise of the use of powdered alcohol, or palcohol, prompted the panel to take a proactive approach and ban the substance “before it becomes a problem in the district.”

The superintendent said that he hopes the Board of Education will consider approving the panel’s recommendations at its June 2 meeting. If the board endorses the change, the provisions on self-defense and powdered alcohol would be included in student handbooks in the fall.

In addition, Dailey, with input from the district’s four school principals, who attended the meeting, reported that disciplinary referrals are down significantly compared to this school year.

He attributed the improvement to Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support, or PBIS, a program being utilized at each of the schools and at the district level.

PBIS strategies include monthly school family meetings, incentives for students who have no classroom or discipline issues, community service projects, surveys, classroom observations and anti-bullying sessions.