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Wichita school board bans personal use of social media at work

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Sep. 23, 2013, at 8:17 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, at 7:33 a.m.

Wichita school board members unanimously approved a policy Monday that prohibits employees from using personal social media accounts during district time or on district computers.

Officials also rolled out new “Guidelines for the Use of Social Media,” developed by district officials over the past several years, which highlight general rules to follow, guidelines when posting on behalf of the district and safety and privacy tips for social media.

Board member Joy Eakins asked whether use of social media during school time was a problem among teachers and other employees and how the district planned to enforce the new rule.

“I don’t think it’s anyone’s intention to create Internet police,” said Wendy Johnson, the district’s director of marketing and communications. “We don’t have the capacity, and it’s not the desire or intent to track people, search for people” posting on social media.

Johnson said the policy intends to clarify appropriate use of social media for employees and point them to the new guidelines. District officials will inform employees of the new guidelines this week, Johnson said.

There are no official guidelines for the use of social media by students, but they are bound, online as elsewhere, by behavior standards noted in the district’s student code of conduct, Johnson said.

According to the guidelines, the district “takes no position on employees’ decisions to participate in the use of social media networks for personal use on personal time. However, use of these media for personal use during district time or on district equipment is prohibited.”

Employees “are strongly advised to avoid friending students or the parents of students on personal social media networks” such as Facebook.

The guidelines also note that “social media tools should supplement, not replace, traditional classroom and parent communication tools.”

Employees who violate the policy can be subject to discipline “up to and including termination.”

Also on Monday, the board heard an update on the status of a $370 million bond issue approved by voters in 2008.

So far, the district has spent or encumbered about $258 million on 56 projects throughout the district, said Kenton Cox of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey, the district’s bond manager.

Another 21 projects in various stages of development or design – including a new Southeast High School – are expected to cost about $101 million, Cox said. The new Southeast High is estimated to cost $55.8 million, according to a document presented to board members Monday.

Completing bond issue projects as proposed in 2008 – taking into account those dropped or downsized since the board decided to re-evaluate bond projects in early 2011 – would cost about $365.8 million, Cox said.

Construction costs have increased substantially since the start of bond work in 2009, Cox said, from about $130 per square foot to more than $160 per square foot this year.

“I don’t say that to alarm you, but I do think that’s something we need to look at and be aware of,” he said.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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