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District considering use of drug dogs in schools

Prevention and not entrapment was the message preached at Monday’s Newton Community School Board of Education meeting.

School Resource Officer Brian Foster and representatives from the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office — including Sheriff John Halfery himself — gave the board an example of how effective and useful a drug detection dog would be in the schools.

Deputy Jeremy Burdt had, Nuke, the county’s drug dog and his fellow deputy, find a towel — scented to simulate marijuana’s odor — he had hidden in the board’s meeting room at Emerson Hough.

“When we do our school searches, a lot of the times, they put the school in lockdown,” Burdt said. “We lock the students in the classrooms, and as you guys are performing those duties, we bring in three or four dogs, depending on the size of the school.”

“We’ll have two or three dogs running inside the school and we just do a quick scan of the lockers. We’ll carry notepads with us and little Post-it notes. If our dog gives us full alert, or gives indication, we’ll put a Post –it on that locker, and we keep moving,” he finished.

Burdt and Foster both insisted the searches weren’t methods to attempt to catch students, but would act as a deterrent. The item wasn’t an action item on the agenda, so no vote was cast, but the board encouraged Superintendent Bob Callaghan and Foster to continue developing the idea.

NCSD Technology Supervisor Chris Bieghler gave the board a preview of the district’s new website, which he expects to be launched on April 1. The new site, which is still in beta mode,  is reminiscent  of the district’s current site, but implements photos better, has more features and amenities, easier to navigate and has a more modern look to it.

“We wanted to keep some of the aspects of the old, but we wanted to move forward a little bit,” Bieghler explained to the board as he demonstrated the site. “The one thing that was at the top of everyone’s list was media and video and Web 2.0 type of stuff.”

Beighler also informed the board the district’s comprehensive technology plan is nearing completion and would be ready for board review in March. One aspect of the plan he shared is having one- and two-year purchase plans for tech equipment.

Callaghan threw his support behind the new site and Beighler’s work in getting it done. He said both the site and one and two year plans align with district vision and expanding the 1:1 Initiative, which is how students at Newton Senior High School received iPads, to other students.

“Our vision, as we are moving forward, incorporates technology more into the day to day operations of the school district,” Callaghan said

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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