The Ottumwa Courier

September 23, 2013

No (fake) smoking allowed

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Don't try to get tricky with the school district. They've got advisers watching out for them.

The Iowa Association of School Boards has its own education professionals who create guidelines for a lot of different school rules. Then individual school boards can adopt the rules as policy, reject the rule or use it but make modifications.

"That's one of the services the IASB provides," said Davis Eidahl, superintendent of Ottumwa schools, while addressing the school board at a meeting Monday.

Related to that "boilerplate" guideline service, Eidahl said, are the updates to keep pace with changes in laws — or technology. For example, policies about computers and email had to be updated to include cellphones and texting.

"This is in regards to our tobacco-free environment policy," Eidahl said. "Their [new] recommendation includes devices like electronic cigarettes ... be included. I put this before you as something to think about, do we want those [items] on campus."

The new policy recommendation from the IASB adds, "... or nicotine use, including the use of look-a-likes where the original would include tobacco or nicotine ..."

There are devices now that contain no tobacco but do contain nicotine. Someone on school property could try to make the argument, Eidahl said, that the tobacco-free campus signs don't apply to them, because their e-cigarette contains nicotine — not tobacco.

No vote was taken Monday, as it was not listed on the agenda. Items must, by law, be on the agenda ahead of time in order to be voted on.

One thing that was listed on the agenda as an "action item" to vote upon was finding a board member to go to the IASB delegate assembly. Board President Carol Mitchell said while there is discussion of education issues at the big meeting of school boards, "what it boils down to is [voting on] what we believe to be the best [course] of action the Legislature can take for Iowa school districts."

Because Ottumwa is actually one of the larger school districts, she said, the community gets nine votes in choosing what legislative priorities should be recommended.

Mitchell was chosen as the Ottumwa delegate. The vote had actually been put off for a month: At the last regular board meeting, veteran delegate Mitchell suggested that she wait until after the school board election to talk about who would go to the assembly. While willing to go, she didn't want to assume that she'd be on the board, she said.

She is. So are newly elected members Michael Burton and David Weilbrenner. The board officially welcomed the new members, and said farewell to Jeff Strunk and Payson Moreland, board members who decided not to run in the most recent election.

The board, technically the "new school board," had one more election of their own: Mitchell will serve as president again, while the vice-presidency went to Greg Riley.

To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark