BY: STACEY BULMER
The conference room at Alliance Academy International usually stands empty and cold on a Friday morning. On the morning of February 3, however, it was cold but not empty.
Mr. Toby Travis, secondary school principal at Alliance Academy International, stood centre stage. He was holding a student question and answer forum. During this informal meeting, Mr. Travis laid out a plan in which many of the school’s policies were going to be changed and modified.
“Our goal is to bring unity and clarification to the handbook,” Mr. Travis said later during an interview.
These changes will include many of the basics, including the policies about tardies, absences, dress code, detentions and cell phone use.
Instead of five unexcused absences per semester, you are allowed eight unexcused per quarter.
As for tardies, one through four tardies will not earn any demerits. However, five to seven will earn one demerit, eight will earn two, and so on. When sixteen tardies are reached, the offending party will receive four demerits and probationary action.
Dress code is one of the most misunderstood policies. Students, especially female students, have gotten away with skirts getting shorter and shoulders becoming more and more exposed.
Since the policy changes took place, however, the three-finger rule has been put into play. Three fingers typically equal three inches, and six inches is the required length for any shirt sleeve or skirt bottom.
If a subject’s skirt appears more than six inches above the knee, the skirt is considered too short. The skirt length is measured while the subject is sitting, usually in the Secondary Office.
When Mr. Travis mentioned that cell phones might be used with teacher’s permission, a round of applause greeted him. One example of this new cell phone use is that a student can order lunch, say from Q’Mas, as long as a teacher is present to supervise the call.
The elimination of detentions also earned Mr. Travis some applause and a cheer or two. The main reason for taking detentions out of the handbook was that “they simply don’t work,” Mr. Travis said.
When asked how the policies are changed, Mr. Travis explained the entire process. First, a proposal draft is written by Mr. Travis, outlining the problem and recommending a change. Then the proposal goes to Dr. David Wells, the Director at Alliance Academy International.
Depending on how large or contradictory the proposed change is, sometimes an entire team of administrators is called upon to talk about the change. After the discussions, and quite possibly some headaches, the change is either approved or denied. If the change is denied, it is typically forgotten.
If the policy change is approved, it goes to the translators’ office. Once the translators are done and happy with the Spanish version of the change, it finally goes to publication and ends up in the handbook.
Mr. Travis said that next year the handbook will most likely be electronic, “in order to save paper and so changes can be made more easily.”
Along with the handbook going electronic, students will also be required to check their email account daily. Teachers will begin to send students work via email, and students will need to check their accounts to have access to their homework.
Email addresses that students check will be the one on record in the Secondary Office. If students give the wrong email address to the Office, they can expect some late grades or zeros.
Next year, students will also memorize the Honour Code of the school. There will be a quiz on the handbook, just to make sure students actually read the handbook and understand its policies.
“The biggest excuse I have heard from students is ‘I didn’t know [it was in the handbook]’,” Mr. Travis said. “Next year students will know what is in the handbook and will abide by its standards.”
The motivation for these changes was mostly student opinion. There were also many unclear policies, which were being misinterpreted by the students, if the handbook was being read at all. Hence the need for the handbook quiz.
When do these changes take place? Some take place immediately; such as in the Fourth Quarter the Seniors who want an Honour’s Pass must have a 3.5 GPA. Having more unexcused absences has already taken effect, as has the cell phone policy and emails with homework. The handbook will be electronically delivered to students and parents in the Fourth Quarter as well.
The Honour Code and handbook quiz will be taking effect next year in August.
Many policies have been changed since Mr. Travis took control of the school as secondary principal. These changes will be reflective of Alliance Academy International’s high standards as an international Christian school.