Pubdate: Tue, 10 Sep 2002
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2002 The Decatur Daily
Author: Deangelo McDaniel, DAILY Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


HARTSELLE -- Following a lengthy debate Monday night, the Hartselle Board 
of Education voted 3-2 to hire a company to do the school system's drug 

Woodland Occupational Health of Cullman will test Hartselle students who 
participate in extracurricular activities.

The board members voted to begin testing Oct. 1, but they have not 
appointed a drug-testing coordinator and are still refining the policy.

Board members Ronnie Abercrombie and Jeff Gray opposed hiring Woodland. 
Gray's motion to hire EDPM of Birmingham failed to garner three votes.

Chairman Susan Puckett joined Cathy Goodwin and Joe Berry in voting for 
Woodland. The three board members said they voted for Woodland primarily 
because of cost.

The company will charge $21.75 per test, while EDPM proposed charging 
$34.50 per test.

"The intent of the drug policy is to deter drug use," Puckett said. "If we 
can do this for $22 as opposed to $34 it makes sense to do it in a 
cost-effective manner."

Abercrombie and Gray opposed Woodland because the company has never 
conducted drug testing in a school.

"We would be better served to go with someone with a proven track record," 
Gray said.

EDPM does testing for a number of school systems in Birmingham, including 
Vestavia Hills and Mountain Brook.

"I think we made a mistake," Abercrombie said. "I'm not comfortable going 
with a company that has never tested a school system. It's important that 
we start off right and go with a company that parents will feel comfortable 

"I have no doubt that they are the Cadillac in the business, but do we need 
a Cadillac?" Berry asked.

Superintendent Lee Hartsell said the school system would test about 1,000 
students this year.

On a related matter, Puckett appointed Goodwin and Abercrombie to meet with 
Decatur attorney Bill Shinn to discuss his concerns about the policy.

Shinn, who represents the school system, recommended in a letter that 
Hartselle test only students who participate in competitive extracurricular 

The board plans to test all students in extracurricular activities. Shinn 
questioned several sections of the policy. Gray, a lawyer, wanted to get a 
second legal opinion.

Although a majority of the school board members will not meet with Shinn, 
the state attorney general has repeatedly issued opinions advising 
government entities that their committee work must be done in public.

In April 2001, Hartselle Utilities requested and received an opinion from 
one of its attorneys about committee meetings.

Huntsville attorney E. Cutter Hughes wrote: "I believe that the safest 
course is to avoid private discussions where it appears that public access 
to the entire process from public policy discussion and formulation through 
adoption and enforcement is being flaunted."
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