The Perry School Board met in regular session on Monday, May 14. Board members heard a proposal on Capturing Kids’ Hearts, along with the first reading of the Animals on District Premises policy.

Superintendent Clark Wicks said the district has been in talks of how to improve the relationships between students and staff.

One option brought to the board during the May 14 meeting is Capturing Kids’ Hearts. Kathy Pantzar, middle school at-risk coordinator, said the program provides strategies for teachers to use that “build positive, meaningful relationships with kids.”

She first trained in the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program in 2004 in Texas, followed by a refresher course in 2014. She has taught for 29 years, six of those in Perry.

“You can come to my classroom any day and see this working,” Pantzer said of the program. “I stand at the door every single class period and I shake every hand of every single kid who walks into my classroom because I want them to know I’m excited they’re in my class.”

Capturing Kids’ Hearts helps give teachers tools like that to implement in their classroom to foster stronger relationships with students. Those tools, Pantzar said, don’t take away from class time.

“Just showing the kids that you care. I don’t care what subject you teach, if the kids know you care, they’re going to do well in your class,” she said.

Capturing Kids’ Hearts would include a two-day intensive training program for Perry Middle and High School teachers in the 2018-19 school year.

The cost for implementation is $45,000, or $22,500 for each school. The funds would come out of the Teacher Quality Fund and not the general fund. Wicks said the district could cover the cost of the program through the Teacher Quality Fund as there will be $116,000 available next year.

The school board approved the proposal during the May 14 meeting.

The board also heard the first reading of a new Animals on District Premises policy.

Board Vice President Linda Andorf highlighted the main points of the policy during the meeting.

The policy, she said, is dedicated to the health and safety of the students, staff and any visitors in the building. Only those animals that have been authorized will be allowed in the building.

Animals outside of the building must be leashed and under control at all times.

Service animals are those that are accompanying someone with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district would need to comply with all state and federal rules regarding those types of service animals.

Therapy dogs are used for specific physical, social, cognitive and emotional needs. Therapy animals allowed in the building must have special certificates on file and need to be handled by their trainer at all times.

Board President Kyle Baxter asked where the animal policy came from. Wicks said the district has experienced problems with too many animals in the building.

“I think it started pretty innocently with one person bringing in a dog. Now it has turned into we have quite a few dogs at all the buildings,” he said. The animals are being brought in by adults.

Wicks said the district looked at implementing a policy surrounding animals in the buildings because of liability issues. Kids, staff or visitors could be in a situation where they are bit or have allergy issues.

Wicks has received a call where parents asked if a particular teacher who brings her dog into the classroom will still do so next year. They were concerned because their child is extremely scared of dogs.

“We want to make sure that we are trying to be fair to everybody. If there is a reason for a service dog or a therapy dog (those would be allowed). But right now, we are kind of over the top,” Wicks said of animals in the buildings.

Baxter asked if the decision on allowing animals into each building would be up to the superintendent. Wicks said the ultimate decision would be his, but the day-to-day decisions would be made by the building principals.

High School Principal Dan Marburger said he has had problems with students and staff requesting to bring in their animals. He recently had to deny two of those requests from teachers.

He was one of the administrators who asked the board to consider a new policy that clearly spells out what types of animals are allowed and the guidelines the animals must follow while on school grounds.

No action was taken on the policy. A second reading will be read at the June 11 meeting.