Notes from the Haldane School Board

Highlights from Jan. 17 workshop

By Lily Gordon

Reflecting a trend also seen in Putnam County and the nation, Haldane High School students smoke more marijuana and view it as more socially acceptable than they did just two years ago, according to a  confidential survey conducted by the Putnam Communities that Care Coalition and shared with the Haldane School Board on Jan. 17.

More than 280 of 345 Haldane students in grades 8, 10, and 12 completed the Haldane Prevention Needs Assessment Survey, and nearly 4,000 Putnam County students participated in similar surveys.

The results of the Haldane survey were shared with the board by Joseph DeMarzo, deputy commissioner of the Putnam County Youth Bureau, and Kristin McConnell, executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism & Other Drug Dependencies/Putnam, Inc.

While marijuana use has slowly increased among eighth graders to about 8 percent from 2 percent in 2008, no consistent pattern could be discerned among 10th graders, they said. About 20 percent of Haldane sophomores reported smoking marijuana in the 30 days preceding the survey in 2016, compared to 22 percent in 2008. But use went up and down in the succeeding years, from 42 percent in 2010 to 25 percent in 2012 to 38 percent in 2014. Twelfth graders, however, have shown a somewhat steady increase, to 55 percent last year from 38 percent in 2008.

More than twice as many Putnam County students reported using marijuana last year than in 2014, a jump from 12 to 25 percent. “The kids, as do adults, get a mixed message from the media, from parents, from medicine,” said DeMarzo. “When we have these focus groups with students, they say, how bad can marijuana be if it’s going to be used for medical purposes?”

DeMarzo called tobacco and marijuana “gateway drugs” that affect brain development and lead to serious addictions, and encouraged parents to discuss the risks of marijuana use with their children.

He noted that the survey revealed a significant decrease in tobacco use among high school seniors, although the survey did not ask about electronic cigarettes or vaporizers. The consumption of alcohol among seniors in Putnam County also dropped to 55 percent last year, from 75 percent in 2010. The number of eighth graders who reported recently drinking has remained at about 10 percent since 2008, he said.

In other business:

  • Foreign language may be added to the curriculum at Haldane Elementary School in the 2018-19 academic year. In a survey sent to families in December, 80 percent of the 151 respondents said foreign language should be “the highest or a high” priority; 85 percent wanted instruction to start in kindergarten or first grade; and Spanish was the overwhelming language requested, according to Principal Brent Harrington.
  • Haldane will see a slight increase in its rollover budget, the amount of money the district requires to continue with “exactly what we have this year for next year and if we weren’t to add anything or take anything away,” said Superintendent Diana Bowers. Compared to a final budget of $23,098,874 for the current year, the estimated rollover budget for 2017-18 will be $23,583,635, an increase of 2.1 percent. These increase is mostly tied to the rising price of health insurance premiums for faculty. “Our reserves are healthy at this point, but there is conversation about using them for buildings and grounds needs in the upcoming year,” said Anne Dinio, Haldane’s business manager.
  • Jean Cendali, an elementary school art teacher, will retire on June 22 after 42 years with the district.
  • The next Haldane Athletics Code of Conduct meeting is at 7 p.m. on Jan. 26. One possible topic of discussion is whether to introduce drug testing to Haldane sports teams, Bowers said.