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NCSS revamps tribunal procedures
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The Newton County Board of Education is revamping its tribunal procedures in order to allow administrators to spend less time in tribunals and more time in their schools.

According to NCSS Superintendent Dr. Gary Mathews, during the 2009-2010 school year there were 245 disciplinary tribunals held in the system involving a total of 33 school-based administrators (16 middle school and 17 high school administrators). Of those administrators, all but one served on a tribunal panel on multiple occasions. Mathews told the board that administrators spent between 195 and 292 hours in tribunals during the last school year.

"These are incredibly valuable hours better spent on monitoring instruction at the school site," said Mathews in a recommendation to the board. "Especially when the disciplinary hearing process can be achieved by a single hearing officer as accomplished in other school system’s around the state." 

The recommendation provided by the superintendent showed the pros and cons of a disciplinary panel (which Newton County currently has) and a single hearing officer approach.

"The administration is confident that the system’s current hearing officer has the experience and will continue to receive the appropriate training to further gain the confidence of the Board of Education and Superintendent in order to discharge this important function in the NCSS," reads the recommendation.

"Given the hundreds of hours saved for school-based administrators which can be devoted to focusing on instruction and school discipline back on their respective school sites, the pros in favor of the academic mission of the school system greatly outweigh the cons for moving to a single hearing officer approach," said Mathews in the recommendation.

Mathews also presented the board with the amount that could be saved by moving to a single officer tribunal. Specifically, $57,197 could be saved during a school year by utilizing one officer. He said that with the savings the system could look into hiring a retired school administrator to assist the hearing officer on a part-time basis, which would form a two-person panel for tribunals.

Although board members were not in favor of the single hearing officer method recommended, they were on board with a two-person panel and voted to adopt that means of dealing with disciplinary tribunals at this time.