Hayden parents question drug testing

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A group of concerned parents recommended Wednesday night that the Hayden School District require all drivers who have not yet been drug tested to be tested by the end of the year. The recommendation came amid concerns that a bus driver with the Hayden School District may have refused a drug test.

Parents on the School Improvement Team for Hayden Valley Elementary School made the recommendation to the Hayden School Board at Wednesday night's meeting.

During the team's last meeting, there were conflicting reports about whether a driver refused the drug test, SIT president Jill Altman said.

Upon further investigation, she found that the district is in compliance with Colorado guidelines for commercial driver's licenses, which require one drug test per year, she said.

The school district requires random drug tests every quarter. The policy typically results in tests for 25 percent to 50 percent of drivers, who must also take drug tests at the request of the transportation director, Superintendent Mike Luppes said.

Concerns persisted among the SIT members, however, who asked Luppes at an emergency meeting to verify whether a driver had refused a drug test. Luppes declined to verify the claim because he said it was a personnel issue, Altman said.

"The SIT felt we deserved an answer because it involved a policy. ...We're still not satisfied kids are safe riding the bus," she said.

School Board Treasurer Patty Bruchez said the district would need to make sure the SIT's proposal to test all untested drivers did not conflict with district and state policies.

"I feel, given the overall picture of the department, there's reasonable suspicion to test every driver," said Ann Willingham, vice president of the SIT.

School Board President Kurt Frentress told the parents the board would look into their proposal.

In related business, the board hired Nathan Frentress as the district's new transportation director. He will replace Bob Anderson, who resigned in November after almost a year on the job. Nathan Frentress officially will start in the position after Christmas break, Luppes said.

Also on Wednesday, Luppes reported the district recently received School Accountability Reports from the state. The reports rate schools based on students' performance on Colorado Student Assessment Program tests and other achievement tests.

The state rated Hayden Valley Elementary School high in overall academic performance.

Hayden High School and Hayden Middle School ranked average for overall academic performance.

"Congratulations to the elementary school and everybody who is involved in the elementary," Bruchez said. "That's just great."

The reports likely will be mailed to parents after the winter break, Luppes said.

In other business:

n The school board approved the 2004-05 salary schedule for district employees. It also certified a 3.2 percent mill levy against assessed valuation of taxable properties within school district boundaries. Based on assessed valuation of about $77 million, the levy will raise about $2.5 million for the district's 2005 budget.

n Willingham requested the board schedule a work session to discuss eliminating director districts and to review how the district evaluates its superintendent.

n Parent Kathy Hockett recommended the board also review in a work session its hiring procedures for certified and noncertified staff. She stressed that the board should consider the qualifications and other issues involved with hiring staff before the spring hiring season.

n Elementary school teacher leader Rhonda Sweetser reported the elementary school is holding a gift drive for U.S. soldiers and a canned food drive. The school also will hold a craft fair for students from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Friday.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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