Notable Updates To Sulphur Springs ISD Handbooks, Policies

District Committee Auditing And Updating District Safety & Security Plan

By now, most parents have already sign form acknowledging they’ve received and will require their students to abide by the policies and procedures listed in their student handbooks, Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan.

Those who have more than one student may not have taken the time to flip through to see what, if any, changes have been made to handbooks this year. To help out, below is a brief update on some of the major policy updates, as reported by SSISD administrators.

Handbook Updates, Changes

Middle School

Justin Cowart, SSISD Assistant Superintendent

Assistant Superintendent over Secondary Education Justin Cowart reported very similar changes were made updating information in the Middle School student handbook.

Policies regarding tardies and homework were updated to be more specific on consequences for a third tardy and homework policies.

Homework may be assigned to learn skills and practices, but teachers are encouraged to limit it as much as possible.

The grading policy too was updated to allow for discretionary grading for mastery of a subject, not just whether a student got the question right or wrong; it allows some flexibility.

Homework policy for for all grade levels at SSISD per 2022-2023 Student Handbooks

The SSMS dress code was updated to to reflect the high school policy allowing two piercings of the face and nose, Cowart noted.

SSMS and SSHS dress code regarding piercings (Found on Page 49 in the SSHS 2022-2023 Student Handbook)

High School

“Like Mr. Cowart said, in exactly the same language, it allows up to two additional facial piercings, in addition to earrings there,” SSHS Principal Josh Williams said of the high school dress code policy regarding piercings.

“I disagree with the addition of two additional facial piercings. I just want to say I disagree with the additional,” SSISD Trustee John Prickette said during the Aug. 8 meeting when the handbook updates were presented. “I think it’s going to be a distraction to the learning environment and I think the policy that we had in place prior to this change minimized distractions in the classroom.”

SSISD Trustees Kerry Wright and John Prickette

Williams noted SSHS handbook also requires specific instruction on the prevention of child abuse, family violence, dating violence, sex trafficking. Before a student receives instruction on the prevention of child abuse, family violence, dating violence and sex trafficking, the district must obtain written consent from the student’s parent. Parents will be sent a request for written consent at least 14 days before the instruction can be given. (See pages 34-36 in SSHS Student Handbook)

Students will be allowed to receive food deliveries at the high school this year, a policy reflected in the 2022-2023 Student Handbook. This year, in addition to receiving deliveries from parents and guardians, students will be allowed to receive food from licensed restaurants or food delivery services.

“It they want to have someone deliver their lunch and put it on the table, they can put it on the table. We are fine with that, and it supports local industry,” Williams said.

“They can DoorDash at High School?” SSISD Trustee Robbin Vaughn asked.

“Yep, there’s a table. They come in, they put it down and we don’t mess with it. They have to know it’s coming and come and get it. They don’t interrupt class. It’s been happening anyway, might as well write it down,” Williams said.

“We will have the safety and security protocols?” Prickette asked.

“Yes, they will have to ring the bell: ‘Who is it?’ ‘This is Door Dash, with a delivery for Johnny Smith.’ ‘OK, put it right on the table.’ We can see them there on the camera, they put and they leave. It’s right there by the door,” Williams said.

SSHS 2022-2023 policy for deliveries to students (page 40)

The SSHS Student Handbook also specifies the requirements for early release and later arrival — what it takes for a junior or senior. Juniors can have up to one period, and seniors up to two periods of early release or later arrival, based on passing course exams, no more than 5 unexcused absences, be on track to earn college and career readiness points, no more than two days in ISS and are forced to earn an endorsement in a program of study.

“We’re not going to let them not go to class and not capitalize on what class can offer them,” Williams said.

Prickette asked if administrators looked back to see how many that policy would have impacted in prior years.

“No, I have no idea how many. I know that a lot of kid are getting it in their schedules, as they want it” Williams acknowledged. “It just basically holds a line on them to come to school, don’t get in trouble, succeed academically. I don’t have the numbers.”

SSHS 2022-2023 policy regarding early release and late arrival by 1-2 class periods (pages 50-51 in the handbook)

One significant policy change that high school students and parents should make note of, Williams said, has to do with late work. The handbook defines late work as “any assignment that is not turned in during the student’s scheduled class period, at the time the teacher designates, on the day on which the assignment is due, if the student is in class. Late work turned in late will result in a 30-point deduction. Late work will be accepted for up to 3 school days, no longer. After 3 days, the assignment will be scored a zero and it can no longer be made up for credit. The teacher has the discretion to act in the best interest of the student in extenuating circumstances.”

As an example, Williams said, Johnny arrives Monday without his algebra assignment. The teacher would put a 0 in the grade book immediately, and the student would have 3 days to make it up at a 30% deduction on the grade. If not made up after 3 days, the 0 stands. Putting the 0 in the gradebook immediately lets the students’ parents, coaches and activity sponsors know about it immediately.

However, at the end of class, Johnny tells his teacher they had to take his grandmother to the emergency room the night before. He realizes he should not have waited so long to do his homework, but they were at the hospital with grandma until 2 a.m. The teacher would have the discretion to make a decision in keeping with the policy for his late work.

SSHS policies for late work and red-doing work missed (page 74 in 2022-2023 SSHS Student Handbook)

“We are also going to increase the availability of and knowledge of our tutorials after school. So, if students aren’t doing their work, we will literally sit down and help them do their work. One of the things we heard, especially at the high school level, in surveys done last year as we sat down and talked to team leaders there was students going day after day week after week without turning in their things, defeating the purpose of the assignment in the first place,” Williams said.

“The rest of the story is, this is a cumulative problem. We debate three days, five days, seven days. It’s three school days by the way, not just three days. Other assignments are happening., If you get behind, it’s harder to get caught up if you get behind anyway. We want to teach our kids to perform on a deadline. We want to have the grace to account for real life circumstances. We want to have the grace to account for when they don’t have these circumstances, but they are going to pay a penalty, and at some point, grade-wise we are going to move on from late work,” Williams said.

SSHS Principal Josh Williams and Jason Evans, SSISD state and federal programs coordinator

Prickette asked how a student being out of class for a UIL activity such as a tennis tournament or band competition, drill team or spelling contest would be factored in the late work policy.

Williams said that would not be a school-related absence and the student would not be considered absent. The handbook is unchanged in this area. Those students with school-related absences should find out what assignments they will be missing in advance, in order to be prepared. A student who returns to school Tuesday, after being out of class on Monday for a school activity, but hasn’t completed the assignment because they did not receive the instruction and aren’t sure how to do it won’t be penalized. The work isn’t late on Tuesday, the student has 2 days. After that, they’d have the standard 3 days to get it in.

SSHS is striving this year to organize better and communicate better with families, and get the students the extra help they need for their work, including staying after school to offer tutorials for students. Williams will be among those staying offering tutorials in math.


Assistant Superintendent of Elementary and Learner Services Jeremy Lopez

The SSISD 2022-2023 Elementary Student Handbooks had minimal changes this year, Sulphur Springs ISD Assistant Superintendent of Elementary and Learner Services Jeremy Lopez reported earlier this month.

These handbooks for all students attending classes from pre-school through fifth grade have been updated to reflect recent principal changes, other pertinent information and safety protocols related to COVID as they apply to the 2022-2023 school year

Elementary students from fifth grade down will not be allowed to have body or facial piercings, according to Lopez.

To view a student handbook for any grade level, click here.

SSISD Safe Return To School, Safety Plans, Employee Handbooks

Employee Handbooks, Code of Conduct

Cowart reported that the SSISD employee handbooks have few local changes from last year. Administrators went through the document this summer, updated dates and names for various contacts. The district updates the document as TASB provides additional guidance regarding new or updated state and federal laws.

Administrators also reported there were not substantive changes to the Code of Conduct presented and approved by trustees on Aug. 8, 2022.

Return To School Plan

SSISD State and Federal Programs Coordinator Jason Evans reported the district’s Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan is the same as when it was put in place on Jan. 7, 2022.

Jason Evans, SSISD state and federal programs coordinator

“It is the safety protocols for returning to school in a COVID era and dealing with the notifications of COVID positives within the school district,” Evans noted.

The only change to the plan was the name of the district administrator responsible for notifications and overseeing plan administration; instead of Josh Williams’s name and number, Jason Evans now is listed as the contact person.

In order to receive certain COVID relief funds (ESSER), the district must have the return plan in place. (For a break down of the district’s planned use of the funding, click here. Click here for additional information about ESSER funding allocated to SSISD.)

The Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan may be viewed by clicking the COVID-19 Information link on the front page of the district website,, then clicking on the Plan title. This provides information families should refer to if their child become sick, especially if the student has been exposed to or exhibits symptoms of COVID.

Safety & Security Updates

Superintendent Michael Lamb said the district is working to improve safety and security at all campuses. A SSISD Safety & Security Committee made up of representatives from county and city emergency management, Sulphur Springs Police Department and Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office, the school board president and one other board member, SSISD Chief of Police and another school safety officer, a classroom teacher, and parent/guardian of a student enrolled at SSISD to help improve safety and security levels. Josh Williams has served on the committee as assistant superintendent, but since he has opted to return to SSHS to serve as principal, Lamb now serves in place of Williams on the committee.

SSISD Police Officer Dee Dee Self, who was in charge of safety and security aspects, has resigned her position with the school district. So, the district is transitioning those duties to Patrick Leber, who was approved in March to join the SSISD Police Department as a campus officer at Barbara Bush Primary. Prior to that, Leber served the community full time as as lieutenant at Sulphur Springs Police Department.

SSISD Superintendent Mike Lamb

“He’s done lots of these safety plans and we are thrilled to have him, and have him doing them,” Lamb noted. “Josh [Williams] and Dee Dee and this committee have done great work for the last three years and have done a lot of work to get us to audit how safe we are. We’ve got plans for every campus.”

The Safety and Security Committee met on May 26 and Aug. 2, and is scheduled to meet again next week. Committee members review and continue reviewing SSISD safety plans and active threat plans for each campus. On Aug. 8, the Committee had begun conducting Summer Targeted Safety Audits and Exterior Door Safety Audits on all SSISD campuses, Lamb reported.

Lamb said the state requires someone from the city or county emergency operations to be involved in the process. He is thrilled to report that not only does SSISD have emergency operations from both the city and county, but usually two from each, participating.

“My biggest point right now is that our city and county officers have come forward to be tremendously helpful in all this. They have met with us several times,” Lamb said, noting a forum was held Aug. 8, 2022, at the Civic Center.

Lamb noted the Aug. 8 meeting was attended by about 45 individuals, including the sheriff and chief of police, and several parents to ensure the district achieves all of the required goals to ensure safety and security of students, staff and visitors to the schools.

Over a period of a month there will be “lots of safety and security activity” going on, “good store that we need to do and should do,” Lamb said. During that time, members of the team will be going around, shaking and checking every exterior door in the district. They must provide very extensive data in their audit of the doors, including checking interior doors. Ongoing throughout the month and into the start of the school year will be going over all campus staff, including substitutes, are trained on safety procedures specific to their campus, ensuring all threat assessment team members are trained and updating of access control procedures as needed. Also being reviewed at each campus are visitor check-in procedures at each campus, a multi-hazard operations plan. Lamb said during the initial survey, one door issue was identified to address.

“That’s the point of it. That’s why we’re going it, and it’s been good for us,” Lamb said. “There will be some things come out of it that we need to fix, some things we need to change, actually some policy I’ll ask you to change based on safety and security.”

Sulphur Springs ISD Board Trustees Leesa Toliver, Robbin Vaughn, Superintendent Mike Lamb, President Craig Roberts, Vice President Jason Dietze, Secretary Kerry Wright and John Prickette during their Aug. 8, 2022, board meeting.

Author: KSST Contributor

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