Bement board endorses concealed carry change

On a 4-3 vote, the Bement school board has become the first in Piatt County and possibly Central Illinois to endorse a possible change in the state’s concealed carry law that would allow individual school districts to decide whether or not to allow staff to carry firearms at school.

For Superintendent Sheila Greenwood, it is more about local control than allowing concealed carry among staff.

“By passing this resolution it does not by any means say that Bement is going to have concealed carry. Not at all. We may not ever have concealed carry here,” said Greenwood at the board’s May 9 session. “But what it does is it gives you local control as a school board to make that determination.”

Three board members still voted against endorsing an amendment to state concealed carry law, including teachers Janice Fogerson and Trixie Stoerger-Flavin. Jeff Funk also voted against the resolution, which encourages the Illinois Association of School Boards to lobby the Illinois General Assembly for the change.

Voting in favor were Todd Scott, Jeanne Strack, Kyle Rogers and Denise Strack.

Representatives of www.illinoiscarry.com spoke to several school boards in April asking for them to approve the resolution, saying the changes would help rural districts that do not have immediate access to emergency services.

“And little bats and rocks aren’t going to work,” firearms trainer Rick Noble told the DeLand-Weldon school board on April 17, poking fun at a Pennsylvania school that handed out 16-inch, mini-baseball bats as part of its safety measures.

But at Bement’s April 11 meeting – where Noble presented the proposal – Fogerson said allowing teachers to have guns at school is “opening up a can of worms that I don’t want to be a part of.” Funk also called it a “horrible idea.”

If approved and signed by the governor, the change would allow school districts to make the decision whether to allow staff to carry weapons at school, including who would be allowed to carry. Those persons would have to meet concealed carry guidelines and training requirements.

Volleyball discussion
Volleyball athletes returned to this month’s meeting with a second plea to add that sport to the list of activities fielded in cooperation with neighboring Cerro Gordo.

“I don’t understand why we haven’t combined yet,” said volleyball player Allie Shonkwiler, pointing to a BHS roster that will total 12 to 14 athletes this fall. “I feel it would benefit us a lot if we co-opped and get more girls, and I think our team would be a lot stronger, numbers and winning-wise.”

Tara Garrett, the mother of a middle school volleyball player, said “I totally get where you’re coming from,” but felt it was worth waiting for what she called “a lot of talent” at Bement Middle School.

“They’ll be moving up next year and the next two years after that,” added Garrett, “and I think you’ll have a lot more numbers the following year. You’ve got a lot of talent coming up.”

Hannah Foran, another high school athlete, added that playing two matches per night – a necessity for many players when numbers are low – results in tired players by the end of the varsity match.

Greenwood said the issue was placed on the agenda by Board President Kyle Rogers at the request of the students, but she does not expect it on any future agendas at this point.

Bement and Cerro Gordo High School combine forces for most of their sports, including football, boys basketball, girls basketball, softball, baseball and boys and girls track teams.

Construction to begin
Work will begin this week on the construction of secured entryways for both the high school on the east side and the elementary on the west. When completed, visitors will be buzzed into school offices before being allowed into the remainder of the building.

Greenwood stated the offices’ administrative assistants, along with Assistant Principal Steve Cline, will be displaced during the project, but “will simply be moving next door or across the hall while construction is taking place.”

A new district instrumental/general music instructor was hired by the board. Sarah Fairbanks, a Texas native who most recently taught music in Martinsville, was present at the meeting and confirmed she would continue to field a competition marching band.

The board also approved a new mission statement. It states: “To engage and educate, to create respectful communities of learners and leaders who are successful in college careers and life.”

Handbook updates were also discussed, with action expected at the June meeting. For the high school, a dress code amendment is being proposed to eliminate the finger-length requirement for shorts and replace it with shorts that are “appropriate for the school environment.”

Parking stickers are also being added for students who drive to school, and students must be on the High Honor Roll to be eligible for selection to the National Honor Society.

For the elementary school handbook, one proposal would change the name of the parent organization from Bement Bulldog Boosters to the Bement PTO.

In other action, the board:
–voted to install Wilma Fendley and Dana Foran into the Bement High School Hall of Fame;

–approved an administrative contract for Cline, who will take on athletic director duties in 2018-19;

–approved school fees for 2018-19, which include a $5 increase in book fees; a 5-cent rise for lunches and a $10 hike in driver’s education to $100.

–hired Rachel Riley-Halliday and Anna Hudson, long-term Spanish substitute teachers; Shannon Connelley, paraprofessional; Riley-Halliday, National Honor Society sponsor; Sheryl McKibben and Aly Havener, play/musical sponsors; Andrew Brown, yearbook advisor; and Angie Corum, FCCLA advisor; and

–accepted the resignation of Kate Ruggless as high school assistant volleyball coach.

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