HAND, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE SLOWED - Athletes Using "Spit" Tobacco Questioned, Dale Wants Training Schedule, Public Perception Over Blankenship's Salary

At least nine Calhoun school students have contacted hand, foot and mouth disease, according to Emilio Garza, a principal at Calhoun Middle-High School.

The health problem was discussed at last nights school board meeting, along with other issues.

Garza did not indicate whether other cases had been reported in the county's two elementary schools.

Garza told school board members that the incidence of hand, foot and mouth disease is down after an outbreak three weeks ago.

Board president Carlene Frederick and board member Cynthia Dale said they had received phone calls regarding the disease, mostly concerns about sanitation and how to prevent the problem from spreading.

Dale asked if water fountains were being adequately sanitized. She asked if fountains were being monitored to keep students from spitting in the basin.

Garza said janitors have been frequently disinfecting the fountains, and additional supplies had been purchased to sanitize areas and implements. He said more frequent hand washing has been encouraged.

Board president Frederick said she received several complaints regarding students who are in athletic programs being allowed to use "spit" tobacco.

"I am concerned that it is allowed, and that other kids are taken to the office," when they get caught, said Frederick.

Frederick indicated she never has sports students in her tobacco cessation program.

Garza said "I have not seen it. I will check into it." He said the rules apply to all students.

"It seems athletes don't get reported," said Frederick.

Garza said tobacco use needs to be reported and the problem addressed.

Board member Cynthia Dale asked Superintendent Ron Blankenship if there is a training program for individuals to take over the duties of his retired secretary Jean Simers.

He said there was. He agreed to Dale's request for a schedule indicating that individuals where being trained.

The board voted to hire Simers part-time after she retired. Blankenship had indicated her services were critical and no one had the skills to do her job at the time.

Dale had opposed Simers re-hiring.

Board member Rick Fitzwater said he was concerned that many county residents would vote against the levy because they misunderstood Blankenship's $81,000 salary.

Fitzwater said Blankenship has long tenure in the state, for which much of his salary is reimbursed from state funds.

"Ron is the most senior superintendent in the state, does his job professionally, has kept the school system out of the red, and he has no assistant like most counties," said Fitzwater, indicating he no longer has a secretary.

OTHER details of meeting will follow.