Fifteen eighth-graders will not be able to attend a Tahlequah High School Orange Express band trip to Daytona, Fla., due to a scheduling conflict with standardized testing.

The Tahlequah I-35 Board of Education voted against allowing the Tahlequah Junior High School students to go on the trip, just one week before they were scheduled to leave.

TJHS Principal Terry Garrett and Superintendent Paul Hurst recommended that the board forbid the students from going because the testing is required by the state and affects the district’s measurements in meeting requirements for the No Child Left Behind act.

“The policies are in place for a reason, and we expect our administration to follow those policies,” said board member Pat Allen. “I’m not going to say it really doesn’t matter what Mr. Garrett says, because I think that weakens the system.”

Hurst said Band Director Harvey Price did not check to see if there were any conflicts with the date of the band trip, Feb. 16-23. The eighth-grade writing test is scheduled for Feb. 22.

Price told the board this was the first time a conflict had ever occurred with the date of a trip, and that he didn’t know about the testing until a month after the trip was scheduled.

But Hurst said Price should have made sure there were no testing dates before telling the eighth-graders they could accompany the band on the trip, and that the testing date was set more than a year in advance.

“More thorough investigation was needed by Mr. Price,” said Hurst.

Hurst also said Price had not gotten approval from the board for eighth-graders to go on the trip, only for high school band students.

Both Price and Band Director Leigh Ann McClain said they had never had to get permission for eighth-graders on previous trips, and asked for special consideration, since the students had already invested $600 apiece in the trip.

“Lots of good things can come from this trip, from seeing [the] Daytona [500] and visiting Disney World,” said Price. “Some of these kids will never have this opportunity again.”

The students’ absence from the testing would have a negative impact on TJHS’s overall scores on the writing test, school officials said.

Price offered to administer the test on the road himself, but Hurst said he didn’t believe the Oklahoma Department of Education would agree to that.

Vice President Tony Boyle said he thought it was in the students’ best interests to allow them to attend the trip, since they had already invested time and hard work in raising money.

Board Member Anne Cottrill said she supported Garrett, and that the students needed to be in school for the tests.

After making their decision, the board told Price he should look for a way to refund the money the students had put into the trip.

In other matters, the board approved the lease of a 16-classroom modular building for Tahlequah Middle School, to be installed over the summer to create more room for fifth-graders.

“It became necessary to get some floor space,” said Hurst. “It would have been required if we had moved the fifth-graders to the elementary schools as well.”

The 15,000-square-foot, two-year-old used modular building will allow the district to house the students at Tahlequah Middle School until at least the next bonding cycle and construction of a new elementary school, said Hurst.

“At the end of 72 months, those buildings are ours,” said Assistant Superintendent Denver Spears. “These are full-frame buildings and are well-constructed.”

Spears also told the board about a program that would teach fifth- and sixth-graders about city government.

Exchange City allows students to learn about different aspects of city government, from the mayor to city councilors, police officers to shop keepers. Students learn about the various occupations in class, then go to Exchange City in Tulsa and get to run a mock city for a day.

“Mayor [Ken] Purdy has pledged to support the program and expose our kids to Tahlequah city government,” said Spears. “Next year, he’s also planning to support it financially. It’s a wonderful learning experience for children. I would like to be back in the classroom for that.”

The board also approved Hurst’s contract for 2006-2007. Hurst’s salary will increase to $106,000, up $1,000 from this year.

Other action

Child Nutrition Director Rhonnie Kerns told the board the first adult nutrition class sponsored by TPS was a success, and that another is planned for Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Greenwood Elementary, with members community invited to participate. Carol McKiel, coordinator for the Cherokee County Health Coalition, will present a program. Call the Child Nutrition Office at 458-4193 to sign up for the class.

The board also approved:

• Placing Gary McClure and Lynne Arterberry on the Textbook Committee.

• Adding Cathy Sanders to the Professional Development Committee.

• Contracts with East Central University for reimbursement of substitute expense for Literacy First training; Amanda Bruce to provide instruction for Tahlequah Alternative High School; Junior Achievement of Eastern Oklahoma for the Exchange City Program; and Iris Brigman to provide suicide/crisis intervention training, Feb. 17.

• Fund-raisers for Cherokee Elementary music department, Cherokee P.E. department, Greenwood, Sequoyah, TJHS GEAR UP, TJHS Drama, TJHS, THS Leadership Class, THS drama and THS baseball.

• District funding of $3,000 for the TJHS Science Club to go to the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center in Ocean Springs, Miss.; THS Science Club to San Antonio Sea World; and THS Winterguard to Minneapolis, Minn.

What’s next

The next meeting of the Tahlequah I-35 Board of Education will be Thursday, March 9 at 6 p.m. in the Conference Room at TPS Administration Building.