Official: New ID system protects students

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

Finger imprints and new rules for school publications were the major topics of conversation Tuesday in a regular meeting of the Clovis Municipal Schools board of education.

Though Clovis schools superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said only a couple of complaints had made their way to her desk regarding a new system to identify students with the Skyware/Finger Imprint System, information technology director Dave Whitehead aimed to reassure those wary of the change.

“While there’s a lot of misunderstanding, we’re not rolling kids’ hands in ink, sharing information with the FBI database system or any other police system,” Whitehead said.

He said the technology, which is already being used in laptops and other devices, uses a silicone-based membrane to measure electrical pulses from the finger.

Much like a regular fingerprint, each person has a unique set of numbers that will remain steady into adulthood.

In Clovis schools, the Skyware system is being implemented initially for purposes such as electronically debiting a student’s account when food is purchased at the cafeteria.

“We don’t have to worry about someone punching in a four-digit number and have some ornery kid behind him (stealing the number),” Whitehead said. “No ID cards, no messing around with numbers. The kids just have to bring their finger — which they usually do.”

The meeting was also marked by the introduction of proposed new language for the student publications code.

While board member Lola Bryant was not at the meeting due to a family emergency, the four remaining voting members split on whether to include the board in the appeals process for school papers and yearbooks.

The proposed policy would give students the right to appeal decisions, after the initial one by the specific publications advisor, first to the school principal and then to the superintendent.

However, the ability to make one final appeal to the school board itself was struck from the revised code.

Board member Mark Lansford, who opposed that revision with Terry Martin, wondered aloud “what kind of message” the board would be sending to the students.

“These kids are not dumb. They’re watching what we do, don’t think they don’t,” Lansford said. “They’ve had this opportunity (to appeal to the board) and they know they’ve had this opportunity — and we’re going to take it away from them, for what reason I’m still not clear on. I think we’re sending the wrong message.”

After the result of the vote was split, with Lora Harlan and Max Best in support, the proposed policy changes were tabled until the next regular meeting.

In other business, Lt. Col. Mark Brown told board members to expect an influx of students from Cannon Air Force Base.

With 7,925 students in school on the ninth day of the semester, enrollment in Clovis schools is at its lowest point in the last seven years — down from a high of 8,160 in 2004. That might change fairly soon, however, according to Brown.

“If you haven’t heard, the long-awaited arrival is sure enough in progress,” he said. “We have significant numbers arriving and we were able to provide, a couple of weeks ago, data on the ages on dependent children who are arriving so to help the school district in planning for our growth.”