Rector and Piggott School Boards Talk Snow Days

Thursday, March 13, 2014
PES Principal Leean Mann illustrates the purpose of the data center during Monday night's meeting. A former classroom, the data center serves as the base for educators to track student test scores and progress throughout the school year. To preserve anonymity, the names of the individual students were covered during the public board meeting Monday evening.

Both the Piggott and Rector school boards talked snow days during their regular March meetings on Monday, March 10. Here are the complete stories on each of their gatherings.

Rector School Board

The Rector School District is awaiting a reply from the Arkansas Department of Education before making a final determination in adjusting the remainder of the school schedule. During Monday night's regular meeting of the Rector School Board, superintendent Johnny Fowler advised the Board a request for a waiver of days missed due to snow and ice will be examined at an ADE meeting on March 20.

"It's just a guessing game," Fowler said of an attempt to form a schedule at the moment. "We won't know what we're working with until the 20th."

If the district receives no forgiveness for the days classes were canceled, Fowler says it is likely classes will be held during the entirety of spring break with additional days to be made up surrounding the Memorial Day holiday and the end of the regular term, if needed.

FFA Grant

The district has received a $57,000 grant for the creation of a green house to be used by the Future Farmers of America. The project is an extension of the community garden started last year by the program. The grant will allow the department to construct a new green house, allowing for year-round use and projects.

Retiring

The Board accepted a letter from elementary Title I Math teacher Bonnie Manning announcing her plans to retire at the end of the year. Manning is in her 50th year of teaching, the bulk of which has been at Rector Elementary. She taught first grade at RES for 34 years before transitioning to third grade, and with this year, Title I Math.

"Mrs. Bonnie has meant a great deal to her many students and our entire school," Fowler said. "She has a special place in the hearts of many."

In other business, the Board:

* Tabled discussions regarding the contract of football coach Lewis Earnest.

* Renewed the certified and non-certified personnel contracts with the exception of the aforementioned coaching position and an elementary position.

Piggott School Board

Members of the Piggott School Board met in regular session Monday night, gathering in the data room on the elementary campus. The meeting had been scheduled to be held at PES to allow board members the opportunity to get an update on efforts to address the new common core curriculum at the campus, and hear from teachers and administrators on the subject.

In the absence of board president Julie McMillon, the meeting was called to order by vice president Neil Morgan. After reviewing the usual consent agenda items, and the district financial report, board members considered and voted on a variety of matters.

Superintendent Charlie Powell updated the board on needed repairs concerning two of the air conditioning units in the high school gym, and reported the coils would have to be replaced in those particular units. After discussing the issue at length the board voted to accept the low bid for the repair, at a cost of $15,700.

Powell also reviewed the school calendar in light of the recent snow days, and updated board members on the subject. "We have missed 16 days so far, but we did have five snow days built-in to this year's calendar," she explained. "Right now we have applied for a waiver to the state for of those days and plan to make the others up by adjusting the calendar for the remainder of the year."

Under the plan approved by a vote of the staff, classes will now be in session the Friday before Spring Break, March 21, and three of the days originally set-aside for the break--Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, March 24, 25 and 26. Classes will also be in session on Good Friday.

"We've adjusted the schedule so the third nine weeks will end on Monday, March 24 and parent teacher conferences will be held on Tuesday, March 25," Powell surmised. "Currently, if we don't have any more snow days, the last day for classes for students will be Monday, June. 2."

The board also voted to retract bids they approved at the February meeting for the purchase of computers for the PES computer lab and the distance learning classroom at PHS.

"The bid we had for the computers was only a few days old when you approved it, but when (IT Director) Joseph (Crittenden) placed the order the following day they were all sold out," Powell explained. "So, we basically had to start over from scratch."

The board then voted to accept the new low bid from ITSavvy for 28 computers for the PES computer lab at a cost of $21,887.41. The bid for 14 computers for Jon Wellman's ALE classroom was also accepted from the same firm, with a total price tag of $11,025.11 for the acquisition. Both matters passed without dissent.

Later in the meeting board members were updated on the district's progress in addressing the new common core curriculum, and heard a full report on the data room at PES and its purpose.

"The data room was set up to allow teachers the chance to track student progress throughout the year," PES Principal Leean Mann noted. "Each class and student is represented, but all this information is privileged, so only faculty members are allowed in the data room."

Mann indicated PES is taking part in the pilot program for the Arkansas TESS (Teacher Excellence Support System) which includes formative and self-evaluation of instructors and a professional growth plan to address any deficiencies which may be identified.

"We have grade level meetings each week where we chart the progress and address any deficiencies," Mann added. "We also use the Star Math and Star Literacy testing system to chart our progress for all students."

Mann then offered a detailed review of the systems used by kindergarten, first and second grades and provided examples. "One of the areas we identified for kindergarten students was the need to increase the number of sight words they can identify--an issue we first noticed through the use of flashcard drills, reading groups and daily observations," she noted. "In response we developed a plan to increase the number of words by incorporating different learning strategies which focus on sight word vocabulary."

Following Mann's presentation, third grade teacher Carol Keys gave a report on the efforts for third grade. "We use a little different chart, but it is color coded to give us a quick reference as to whether a student's test scores have gone up or down at a glance," she surmised."We also do a lot with the student's math and reading logs."

The final presentation came from PES Assistant Principal Erica Harris, who provided the update on the efforts of the fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

Copies of the TESS evaluation form and professional growth plan, along with examples of some of the testing measures, were provided to board members. Mann also reviewed other efforts, including the folder kept on each student in grades three through six which are also utilized during parent-teacher conferences.

"I had no idea there was so much effort involved, this is a lot of work put in by our teachers and administrators," Morgan said of the report. "We sure appreciate all the hard work."

During her update to the board, Powell reported there was some damage related to the recent ice storm and indicated an insurance adjuster was surveying the situation. She noted there was damage to awnings, gutters and several of the roof vents on the armory building and a few leaky roofs as a result of the winter weather event.

She also reported all five administrators at both campuses had achieved their proper accreditation for the coming year.

The superintendent also commented on efforts to comply with Act 1280, which pertains to distance learning and internet availability. "We've always been able to offer college level courses to our students at no charge, but I'm afraid that is going to be changing," Powell explained. "The changes coming our way will likely mean there will be a charge of $100 to $300 for each of the college-prep classes and we either have to absorb the cost or start charging students--we will have to formulate a new policy on the matter."

Later the board voted to enter into executive session to consider personnel matters, and about 30 minutes later re-convened. Board members then voted, based on Powell's recommendation, to accept the resignation of Lori Commuso as a cook at PHS effective March 25. They also voted to accept the resignation of PHS special education teacher Jenny Hamilton effective at the end of the current school year. Both issues passed on a vote of 4-0.

In other business the board--

* Okayed the renewal of the model policy service contract through the Arkansas School Board Association.

* Approved Family Medical Leave Act requests for Kathy Coyle and Cassie Knight.

* Voted to allow the repair of the fire panel alarm system in the high school gym.

* Discussed the start time of the monthly board meetings, and agreed to meet beginning at 6:30 p.m. starting with the April gathering.

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