Cowbell Calls Phs Students To Class

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Tammy Earl, Payson High School's attendance clerk, thought she might have to ring the school bell until the cows came home -- and demanded to have their bell back

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When Payson High School's electronic bell system got zapped by lightning last summer, Earl solved the problem by ringing a cowbell into the school's loudspeaker system.


"It's now part of the job description -- school bell ringer," she said.


People in the attendance office -- whoever can get there first -- ring a cowbell into the loudspeaker to signal the beginning of school, class changes and the end of the school day.


Payson High School Principal Phil Gille said Wednesday that the lightning strike also knocked out a phone in his office and phones in many of the classrooms around school.


He told the school board Monday about the problem and the board gave him permission to install a new system, which includes telemedia features, for $65,000.


The zapped system makes it hard on everyone -- staff, parents and students, attendance clerk Sherry Goode said.


"(When it's time to ring the bell,) a little buzz goes off on the wall," she said. "Most of the time the girls in the back hear the buzz. We've missed it, but then we hear about it."


And they also hear from parents trying to reach their children during school.


"We can't page them," Goode said. "We don't have an intercom system so we can't call into the classrooms."


"Parents call and want to talk to their children and we have to send someone to get them," said teaching assistant Judy Neese who occasionally works in the attendance office. "If we don't have a (teacher's assistant), we have to borrow one."


Payson School District Business Manager Bobett Sylvester told the board Monday that the school's present system is more than 15 years old and has been hit one too many times by lightning. It's no longer repairable, she said.


Sylvester has been in touch with the district's insurance company and said she thinks the company will pay a part of the cost of a new system.


But when Sylvester told the board that school officials were making do with a cowbell, the board was quick to approve enough money to get things started.


The new system is a far cry from the primitive system the school was using.


The system's telemedia features will allow teachers to access programs from the school's library from their classrooms.


But at 2 p.m. Wednesday, with the system still down, Dean of Students David Bradley had to cut a phone conversation short to go ring the bell for the students.


"This is like the 1920s and '30s, when the mom stood out and called the kids in from recess," he said. "We've done this all year long."

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