Federal Way School District reviews and updates hundreds of policies

The Federal Way School District is in the process of reviewing and updating its policies over hundreds of mandates that have mostly gone without revision in more than a decade.

The decision to review the policies and procedures — which cover topics like student discipline, hiring practices and finance — came after the school board in September adopted the Policy Governance management style.

The district wants to align its policies under Policy Governance, a style of management where the school board creates goals for the superintendent, then monitors whether the goals are accomplished. It has been “12 to 13 years” since a comprehensive review was conducted of all the district’s policies, said Rick Serns, the district’s director of employment services.

Serns will lead the revision. He will look at the existing 450 or so policies and decide whether they need to be changed. He will also look at adding new model policies — around 50 — from the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA).

So far, Serns said, he’s looked at about 100 policies and fixed minor matters like improper grammar. He expects the process to take until the end of the 2011-12 school year.

“We look at the policy, and then sit down with various superintendents and department heads and see if they feel (the policy) captures the intention,” he said.

The district has added at least one new policy so far, which was recommended by the WSSDA and went into effect on Dec. 17, 2010. It’s called “maintaining professional staff/student boundaries.”

“Staff members will not intrude on a student’s physical and emotional boundaries unless the intrusion is necessary to serve an educational or physical, mental and/or emotional health purpose. An educational purpose is one that relates to the staff member’s duties in the district,” reads the policy.

The policy decrees that inappropriate physical contact is forbidden, and “unacceptable conduct” includes actions like showing a student pornography, calling students by terms of endearment, socializing with students outside of school-sponsored events and communicating with students in a personal manner, such as through email, instant messaging or text messaging.

Superintendent Rob Neu said that any change to policy (even for grammatical errors) would be brought to the school board. Under Policy Governance, the superintendent is expected to complete tasks like policy revision on his own, but Neu is bringing them to the board in case changes need to be discussed.

“There are some policies that might require conversation,” Neu said. “The bottom line is, as we convert our policies to the Policy Governance model, we will bring all changes to the board for their review.”

Neu said that the district is constantly updating its policies, but the switch to Policy Governance presented the opportunity to look at all of the policies.

Some are seriously outdated. Neu pointed to a district policy on electronic devices: At the high school level, the policy specifically applies to (but is not limited to) “pagers, beepers, MP3 players and cellular phones.”

“That was created in a different electronic age,” he said. “As we’re going through these one at a time, we’ll ask for people to give input to reflect a more up to date policy.”


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