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BOE Discusses Staff Policy on Social Media and New P.E. Program

The Board met on Dec. 20 to discuss a variety of issues. | Photo by Nicolette Weinbaum '12

Issues taken up by the Westport Board of Education (BOE) at Monday night’s meeting included a new leadership program in physical education, and the district’s emerging policy on social media.

David Gusitsch, 6-12 Physical Education & Health Department Chair and Curriculum Coordinator, started the meeting off with a presentation to the Board on a proposed program entitled “Physical Education Leaders Training.” This program would replace the existing quarter-credit Senior Elective Program as a budget-neutral and beneficial innovation.

Gusitsch expressed his excitement for this new program, and said that it would be helpful with students’ leadership skills after graduation.

“This is an accelerating curriculum of what’s taught in physical education… The students would be helping out the P.E. program as well as gaining valuable experience as leaders, where they’re working with their peers and they have responsibilities, keeping confidentiality and safety paramount.”

Within the program, according to Gusitsch, certain requirements would need to be met for students to become eligible for the leadership program. The requirements proposed would include intermediate swimming skills, Healthy Fitness Zone qualification on all Fitnessgram assessments, a cumulative “B” average in P.E. courses and a recommendation from a physical education or health teacher.

The Board appeared to respond positively to Gusitsch’s proposal.

Board Chair Michael McGovern suggested extending the proposed program to the middle schools. “We could incorporate the internship program second semester of senior year within the middle school,” McGovern said.

Another Board Chair, Faith Taylor, also expressed enthusiasm for the leadership program proposed by Gusitsch, for its innovative approach to move P.E. to a new direction.

The Board then turned its attention to the second agenda item, “Social Networking By Staff” – a proposal on the use of social media such as email as well as Facebook and Twitter by Staples teachers and administrators.

In a presentation spearheaded by Superintendent Dr. Elliot Landon, the proposed policy was prepared in conjunction with the Stamford law firm, Shipman & Goodwin.

One aspect of the proposal prohibits staff members from discussing or making any reference to the BOE, the school district, or its individual schools on personal social networking sites unless it states that the posts made by the employee do not represent the views of the school district or BOE.

Landon noted that the proposed rules would be consistent with all applicable state and federal statues and regulations. The proposed rules vetted by Shipman & Goodwin sought to strike the right balance between competing interests.

The proposal regulates the use of social media so that it doesn’t create a hostile work environment, doesn’t harm the reputation of school district or violate other school policies [while not interfering] with first amendment rights.

The two proposals on the Physical Education Leaders Training and Social Networking By Staff were tabled for further discussion at the next Board of Education meeting.

In other action items, the Board agreed to accept a gift from the Witaker Foundation of two watercolor paintings and an anonymous grant of e-readers for the Green’s Farms Elementary School.

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