Skip to main content

Governor's address prompts Hillsboro City Schools to look at student phone policy

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo - Create Article
Pictured (l-r) are Hillsboro City Schools superintendent Tim Davis, holding a Yondr pouch that can be used to lock up phones; and board members Tom Milbery, Beverly Rhoads and Bill Myers. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Caitlin Forsha, The Highland County Press

Hillsboro City Schools superintendent Tim Davis discussed possible policy changes regarding student smartphone usage for the 2024-25 school year during his report to the HCS Board of Education Monday, April 15. 

Davis said the district is “looking at our cell phone policy” following comments made by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in his 2024 State of the State address presented April 10. 

According to the Ohio Governor’s Office press release following DeWine’s speech, “For students to get the most out of the school day, teachers shouldn’t have to compete with students’ phones. Governor DeWine is calling on local school leaders to prohibit the use of student phones in the classroom. He is also calling on the General Assembly to pass a bill requiring all schools to communicate to parents their phone and social media policies.”

“We are looking at options because I know that discipline has had a huge increase dealing with cell phones, and how we can monitor that and regulate that during the school year,” Davis said. “Right now, our policy says that students can have those in between classes, during lunch breaks and different things like that, but that is extremely hard to police.”

A potential option demonstrated by Davis Monday is a Yondr pouch, which could be purchased for all students. According to the Yondr website, these pouches are being used in schools as well at event spaces, such as at arenas, among other areas. 

“Upon entering the phone-free space, your phone will be placed inside a Yondr pouch,” the Yondr website says. “Once inside the phone-free area, the pouch is locked. You will maintain possession of your phone at all times. To use your phone at any time, step outside the phone-free zone and tap your pouch on an unlocking base.”

Davis said this is an option researched by HHS principal Joe Turner, and that other districts that have tried it “have raved about it.” 

If purchased, Davis said students in sixth-12th grades would be required “to put their cell phone in the pouch, and it locks, and then throughout the day, they cannot get in it” until they reach a designated “unlocking” area.

“The big thing that we hear is students do not want to have their phone go to someone else, dealing with theft and things like that,” Davis said. “Each student would be given a pouch. They can carry that pouch around with them, but they cannot open it as they go to the bathroom, in the hallway. 

“We are looking at this as an option for next school year, [grades] six through 12, to eliminate discipline, to be more attentive, to kind of follow with what the governor is coming down with, and just overall policing and regulating these things.”

Board member Tom Milbery asked if the pouches would be “numbered.” Davis said they “would have to number them,” and that each student would be assigned their own personal pouch, much like they do with Chromebooks.

“Basically, if you lose it, then you're not supposed to have your phone, so it's either in the pouch, or you don't bring it,” Davis said. “We’ve still got some things that we need to work out as far as what our procedures would be.”

No policies have been amended yet, as Davis said no official decision has been made as to whether they will buy these pouches or simply amend the policies to prohibit phone usage altogether.

“I walk the buildings, and as soon as kids come out of classes, they're on their phones,” Davis said. “Discipline of handing it over, not wanting to give it up, has been a problem.

“We're just looking at options that we can have to improve not only student performance, but decrease discipline by not having cell phones on during the day. That is something that we'll continue to have conversations about, but I wanted to bring that to your attention.”

In an unrelated topic, Davis announced during his report that the district is now partnering with Varsity Tutors to provide 24/7 online tutoring access for students.

“It's a free online tutoring program that our families can access,” Davis said. “It is a platform that's going to be available all the way up through June of 2030, so we've got multiple years of this. It's 24/7 on-demand chat tutoring, dealing with essay reviews, ACT/SAT test prep and then self-study resources. 

“I encourage our students and staff and families to go to the website, look at Varsity Tutors and see if that would benefit them.”

In other discussion, Davis announced that HHS senior Scarlett Studebaker has been named Highland County’s winner of the Franklin B. Walter All-Scholastic Award.

According to, “The Franklin B. Walter All-Scholastic Award Program was established by the Ohio Educational Service Center Association (OESCA) to promote and recognize outstanding academic achievement. One senior from each Ohio county who is nominated by an ESC is eligible to receive this honor each spring.”

As noted by Davis, this is the second straight year that the winner has been a Hillsboro HS student, with Evan Fender earning the 2023 award.

“We had that awards program today in Columbus,” Davis said. “It’s a great honor for Hillsboro City Schools to have the student selected from our county. Congratulations to Scarlett and her family for such a great honor.”

Davis also informed the board that Hillsboro Elementary students will be working on state testing in the coming weeks, including on April 16, 18, 23 and 25.

“I want to encourage all of our students to do their best on the state test to show them what we know,” he said. 

The high school prom will be held April 27 at the Roberts Centre in Wilmington, with the day also including grand march and after-prom, as reported by Davis and student board representative Maddisen Mikkelsen.

Other upcoming events outlined by Davis include the HMS band concert, April 16 at 7 p.m.; HHS band concert, April 18 at 7 p.m.; first grade musical, April 23 at 6:30 p.m.; the Region 14/Hopewell Center Exceptional Achievement Awards April 25 at 7 p.m.; kindergarten musical, May 2 at 6:30 p.m.; and high school choir concert, May 16 at 7 p.m. All events will be held in the auditorium.

In other reports:

• Mikkelsen reported that the HHS production of “The Sound of Music” was “a huge success” — including breaking attendance records, “which was really, really exciting for us.”

Board member Beverly Rhoads said the musical “was great” during her report, and board president Bill Myers agreed. “The musical was fantastic,” he said. “I've been to most of the ones we've had, and it was hands down the best one I've seen. It was wonderful.”

Mikkelsen also encouraged the community to attend a blood drive sponsored by the National Honor Society on April 19 at the high school.

“If you're under 18, you do need a signed permission slip from your parents, and the NHS is running that the entire day,” Mikkelsen said. “There are signups online.”

• Rhoads announced that “student enrollment is on a record pace” at Great Oaks Career Campuses, as they are “on track to achieve 4,439 FTEs [full-time equivalents] for the 2023-2024 school year versus 4,156 FTEs for the 2022-2023 school year.” In addition, “total high school applications are up from last year with 2,692 students applying as of March 28, compared to 2,567 applications received same time last year.”

The April 10 Great Oaks meeting also included recognition of the ASPIRE program having a “strong showing” in the Ohio Department of Higher Education Report Card; a positive report on the fiscal year 2023 audit; and discussion of a possible four-year JROTC program in Clinton County through Laurel Oaks and Wilmington High School.

Rhoads added that she also attended several recent activities aside from the aforementioned musical, including the senior showcase, the Wildcats basketball game, the FFA banquet and the Frontier Athletic Conference art show.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the following approvals were made, each by a 5-0 vote, as board member Larry Lyons was absent.

• The board approved the tax amounts and rates for the fiscal year 2024 as determined by the budget commission and authorize the necessary tax levies and certify them to the county auditor. The document is on file in the treasurer’s office.

“This is something we do every year,” district treasurer Ben Teeters said. “It's just a formality that we approve the rates that are levied against all the real estate taxes in our school district. 

“They did go down a little bit this year, compared to last year, because we have a capital improvement levy that went off. That was voted in back when they built the buildings, and that was required by the state that they had a half-mill levy on at that time. It’s run its 23 years, and it’s done.”

• The board approved Darrien Peacock as an early graduate. In a separate motion, the board approved the entire list of 2024 graduates, including early graduates. According to Davis, there are 172 students graduating this year. 

• The board approved the interdistrict open enrollment policy for the 2043-25 school year. According to the motion, intradistrict is the option to transfer between buildings in the same district, while interdistrict open enrollment is between different school districts. Hillsboro is not eligible for intradistrict open enrollment because all of its buildings are one-of-a-kind buildings.

The following restrictions were approved for the interdistrict open enrollment policy: open to all Ohio school districts; application deadlines are April 1 through Aug. 1; previous open enrollment students and their siblings will get first preference; enrollment limitations will depend upon space at each grade level; and approval of special education students will depend upon teacher limits/space.

Davis said that the only change from the previous policy is the dates, which were changed at the board’s March meeting, being updated from a Sept. 30 cutoff to Aug. 1.

• The board approved the financial reports for March as presented by Teeters. He reported a general fund cash balance of $8,504,645, up from $6,197,926 in March 2023; expenses of $2,487,701, up from $2,378,512 a year ago; and revenues of $1,886,374, down from $2,163,747 last year.

“The revenue all fluctuates when we receive our real estate tax collection on the first half,” Teeters said. “We’re running in the same circumstances that we had last year.”

• The board accepted the resignations of teachers Macy Anderson and Jordan Walker and principal Jacob Zink, all effective at the end of the 2023-24 school year.

• The board approved individuals for the contracts and positions indicated: administrators (both three-year contracts) — Central Office administrator Diane Michael and fourth/fifth grade principal Darci Miles; one-year contracts — Samantha Charek (part time), Angela Crowder, Brian Hughes, Megan MacIvor, Jeffrey McRill, Kayleigh Robinson, Garrett Ross, Pam Sebastian, Stephanee Teufel and Ellen Wright; two-year contracts — Jillian Dickel, Ashley Pollock, Karin Yakimow and Benjamin Young; three-year contracts — Julia Basford, Elizabeth Buchanan, Jordan Clark, Rachel Davis, Trevor Gleadle, Rebecca Johnson, Blake Kibler, Nathan Rutledge, Natasha Walker and Tara Williamson; continuing contracts — Abby Baker, Pam Harp and Cody Mathews; certificated (both teachers with one-year contracts) — Kirsten Harp and Samantha Whitenack; sub certificated — Molly Kell; classified — paraprofessional Hannah Hopkins, retroactive to April 8; sub classified — aide Jessica Mast; supplemental (all for 2024-25 school year) — MS football coach James Horne, spring 2024 weight room supervisor/HS varsity football coach Nate Horne, HS varsity boys basketball coach Josh Howland, HS assistant football coach Robert “Leon” Smith and HS varsity girls basketball coach Heather Storer; and volunteers — Jessica Baily (HES/HMS/HHS) and Susan Hunter, Amber Mosley, Kelsey Reed, Brittney Wallace and Hannah Workman (all HES).

• The board approved revisions to the following policies: Policy 2623 - Student Assessment and Academic Intervention Services; 2623.02 - Third Grade Reading Guarantee; 3120.04 - Employment of Substitutes; 3140 - Termination and Resignation; 4124 - Employment Contract; 4140 - Termination and Resignation; 5310 - Health Services; 8600 - Transportation; 8600.04 - Bus Driver Certification; 8640 - Transportation for Non-Routine Trips; 8650 - Transportation by Vehicles Other Than School Buses; 8660 - Incidental Transportation of Students by Private Vehicle; 1615 - Use of Tobacco by Administrators; 3215 - Use of Tobacco by Professional Staff; 4215 - Use of Tobacco by Classified Staff; 5512 - Use of Tobacco by Students; 7424 - Use of Tobacco on School Premises; and 9160 - Public Attendance at School Events.

“There isn't anything new,” Davis said. “They were all revised again. The things that are being revised are usually grammatical, or taking out one word to place another. This was probably the shortest policy meeting we've had in years.”

• The board approved leaves of absence for teachers Ashley Badger (effective March 24-May 23) and Stephanie Haines (March 27-April 26) and paraprofessionals Rhonda Shipley (April 30-May 27) and Karen Shoemaker (April 12-26).

• The board approved an out-of-state field trip for the high school football team to Montrose, Mich., July 28-31.

“We’ve got hopefully about 40 to 50 students going, and about six chaperones,” Davis said.

• The board accepted the following donations: two $50 anonymous donations, one toward robotics and one toward student charges at HCS cafeterias; and a $200 donation from Bickle Insurance Services, a $150 donation from Burwinkel Family Dentistry and a $100 donation from Hillsboro Family Vision, all toward robotics.

Publisher's note: A free press is critical to having well-informed voters and citizens. While some news organizations opt for paid websites or costly paywalls, The Highland County Press has maintained a free newspaper and website for the last 25 years for our community. If you would like to contribute to this service, it would be greatly appreciated. Donations may be made to: The Highland County Press, P.O. Box 849, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133. Please include "for website" on the memo line.

From left, board members Jerry Walker and Maddisen Mikkelsen and district treasurer Ben Teeters are pictured.



Rhonda Thomas (not verified)

17 April 2024

I'm one of those parents that likes to know things that involve my daughter/school as it's happening and not after the facts. If my daughter feels like she needs to contact me for any reason, I feel like she should be able to. Granted, some students abuse their cell phone privileges but not all. For example, my daughter texts me on her lunch break or a study hall to tell me what achievements she has gotten for choir, musicals or school in general because she's proud of herself and I am too. Also if something happens she lets me know. So for the one's that take the phone privileges for granted, their phones should be taken away, but others no.

Cheryl A Irwin (not verified)

17 April 2024

While I understand the need for students to fully concentrate on classes without disruption, I worry with all of the disasters happening at schools everywhere. I don't want to believe that any students at Hillsboro would commit violent acts, I see that there should be at least some way of reporting school shooters, etc. So if they can't unlock a phone inside the classroom, what? Is there a centralized phone in each room in case of emergencies?

Donna (not verified)

17 April 2024

I totally disagree with kids not having phones! In today’s world it could be a life saver! I do think there needs to be rules as to where and when they can use them, but I think they need to be within reach at all times! Teachers also should not use phones during class unless searching info for topic taught! Also teachers should not be eating snacks in front of hungry kids. Kids should have snack time if not twice during the day! It would boost their learning and awakeness

Add new comment

This is not for publication.
This is not for publication.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it. Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number and email address is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.