Therapy dogs, progress discussed by BOE

LEDGER – The Mitchell County Board of Education at its regular meeting this past week discussed certified therapy dogs at Harris Middle School, unanimously approved a resolution allowing McManus Microwave to lease a portion of the Buladean School building and discussed the school system’s progress over the past year. 

The board previously discussed therapy dogs at Harris during its regular May meeting and unanimously approved a decision to initiate the pilot of the program pending legal review. 

Attorney John Henning reviewed the program and said he had concerns about the school system being liable in the event of a dog bite. 

Henning added he would feel more confident in the program if the school system partnered with an organization that would train the dogs to interact with children. 

“It’s certainly not illegal,” Henning said about the program. “If you feel like you want to continue to explore it, we can continue to look at it.”

Board member Sam Blevins said he is heavily in favor of the program and urged his fellow board members to host Harris Principal Michael Tountasakis at next month’s regular meeting for further questions about the program. 

“Some of these kids don’t have opportunities to see animals,” Blevins said. “It helps their closeness and love for each other.”

Board Chair Angela Burleson said Tountasakis would be invited to next month’s regular meeting and the board will further flesh out his vision for a therapy dog program.

Tountasakis addressed the board during the regular May meeting and fielded a limited set of questions.

“I think it’s great for the therapeutic benefits,” Burleson said. “I wonder if our staff members understand the liability if the dogs bite somebody. I think it’s a great idea. Maybe Mr. Tountasakis has had more time to flesh out his plan, and we have had time to develop more questions for him.”

Henning said the agreement allowing McManus Microwave to lease a small part of the Buladean School would not interfere with the location’s viability as a building meant for public use. 

McManus Microwave, on Beans Creek Road, plans to expand by leasing two or three classroom spaces in the school, thus creating multiple new jobs in the process. 

Superintendent Chad Calhoun gave a brief report on the board’s progress over the past year before the board convened in closed session. Calhoun said he is proud of the board’s work in securing the 1:1 initiative that gave laptops to every student and added that the school system plans to improve its overall communication and parent involvement. 

The board unanimously approved a one-year extension of Calhoun’s contract. 

“I think this board is working well together,” Calhoun said. “You’ve accomplished a lot. It takes everyone working together for the same cause for this all to work.”

The meeting will continue Thursday, July 26. 

The MItchell News

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