Portage Township school district reviews policy on background checks
By John Robbins Post-Tribune correspondent February 13, 2013 11:08PM
Updated: March 19, 2013 6:12AM
The Portage Township School Board has reviewed its criminal background check policies and wants to develop a social media use policy.
Portage Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia told the board last week that for the past three years national background checks have been conducted for all new hires. Prior to that, only Indiana criminal records were reviewed.
The national search reviews national sex offender and criminal databases, international criminal records and homeland security databases.
Background checks are repeated when employees are relicensed.
Assistant Superintendent Tom Taylor said in most cases background checks are completed prior to hiring. When someone must be brought on board quickly, employees are hired contingent upon satisfactory background checks.
Social media policy
The board will develop a policy toward social media use. There is currently no school policy regarding social media, a situation that other local school districts also face.
“I think it’s important that we don’t overreact, but there are things we can’t take for granted anymore,” Frataccia said.
Frataccia noted that the Fegely incident — where an eighth-grade teacher allegedly sent inappropropriate texts and photos to former female students — made the social media issue more important to address.
Board attorney Kenneth Elwood mentioned such a policy would have to be sensitive to First Amendment issues.
Frataccia wants to pursue an alternative energy strategy for the school district and is hoping to develop a relationship with Fronius Corp. Fronius is a leading producer of solar inverters that is moving its world headquarters to Portage.
Through the Energizing Indiana program of the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, NIPSCO will conduct an energy audit of the school system in 2014. The program is offered at no cost to the school system.
Frataccia alerted the board that some schools, notably Central Elementary, are full and cannot accommodate any more students or programs. “It’s not a nice topic but we’ll probably need to redistrict. We have to find some way for schools to have some breathing space,” Frataccia said. No time line for redistricting was proposed.