By Tony Pennington

Transcript Staff Writer

“Disturbing” was the refrain uttered by the Norman Public Schools officials following the release of the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey results Monday evening at the Board of Education’s regular meeting.

Among the 2,918 district high school students surveyed, more than 40 percent of both males and females indicated they have had sexual intercourse and more than 30 percent of both genders were active with one or more persons during the past three months. More than 43 percent of boys and 39.8 percent of girls polled have used marijuana. The YRBS also revealed more than 30 percent of males and females have participated in binge drinking, or five or more drinks of alcohol in a row within a couple of hours.

“These are very disturbing,” said NPS board member Ken McBride after Director of Guidance and Counseling Sharon Heatley’s presentation. “It is wise of us to gather this information and share it rather than kid ourselves.”

The district has issued the survey four times to more than 12,000 Norman High School and Norman North High School students in the last seven years – April 1999, October 2001, March 2003 and May 2006. The survey is voluntary and anonymous.

Information collected serves as an indicator of tobacco, alcohol, drug, sexual, dietary and physical activity trends within the schools and assists in describing risk behaviors, creating awareness, setting program goals, developing programs, supporting health-related legislation, community development and enrichment and securing additional sources of revenue.

The 87-multiple-choice-question, six-category format was developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the division of adolescent and school health. While the initial reaction always seems to be one of shock, the district views the results as a tool to help them move forward in addressing schoolwide and community issues.

“We can use this information to create awareness not only in our schools but the community,” Heatley said. “Now we have more information, and it will take everyone working together to keep our students academically successful and healthy. Now the hard work begins.”

The first step will be to analyze the data and extract the information needed for services or programs to benefit the students and community.

“School districts and communities are struggling with these issues and there is no way this doesn’t make an impact,” said NPS Superintendent Dr. Joseph Siano. “As a district we need to step up and give our students an incentive … a reason to say ‘No.’ We have to look at those things. We have the data to do so.”

The board shifted the focus from students to district leadership when it convened in an executive session. Behind closed doors, officials agreed to amend Siano’s contract for the 2006-2007 school year and also approved the adoption of a 403(B) plan with employer contributions. The board approved the superintendent’s contract in February, but indicated salary adjustments would be made later.

Instead of the standard one year agreement, Siano was given a three-year contract, the first time he has been offered one in his more than six years of service. He will be with the district until June 30, 2009, and was awarded a base salary of $152,900. His previous salary was more than $139,000.

“I was given a three-year contract for the first time,” Siano said in an interview Tuesday. He also expressed his desire to continue with his work with the community and students. “Being able to continue as the superintendent in Norman Public Schools is a privilege. I appreciate the board’s confidence, and I look forward to the future.”

Among other action taken by the board:

• Approved the district gifted education programming advisory committee for 2006-2007.

• Approved the Norman district gifted education plan for 2006-2007.


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