Thompson, Jett Make Check Presentations

Thursday, May 8, 2014
Among those taking part in the check presentation at PCH were, from left: Rep. Joe Jett, Health Care Facilities Board member Paula Blackwell, Sen. Robert Thompson, hospital executive director James Magee along with Kimberly Showers and Emily Hathcock, representatives of East Arkansas Planning and Development District.

Clay County's two regional lawmakers, State Senator

Robert Thompson of Paragould and State Representative Joe Jett of Success, visited Piggott recently for two check presentations. The legislators visited both Piggott Community Hospital and Piggott Elementary, attending an appreciation luncheon at the hospital and visiting PES in recognition of their reward as a top-performing school on last year's testing.

Thompson and Jett were instrumental in acquiring funds through East Arkansas Planning and Development recently for the purchase of new equipment for Piggott Community Hospital. The monies were earmarked for the purchase of lifesaving equipment for one of PCH's ambulances, not covered by the hospital's annual budget.

Those on hand for the check presentation at Piggott Elementary School included, from left: Front-sixth grade students Cooper Harris, Jackson Henfling, Maggie Williams, Faith Wayman and Catie Hill. Back-Assistant Principal Erica Harris, State Senator Robert Thompson, Piggott Schools Superintendent Charlie Powell, PES Principal Leean Mann and State Representative Joe Jett.

On Tuesday, April 29 the two lawmakers were on hand as a check for $29,438.24 was presented to the hospital. The presentation was made at an appreciation luncheon for the two local members of the Arkansas General Assembly, held at PCH.

On hand were representatives of the EAPDD, hospital staff, health care facilities board members, city officials and community leaders.

"The grant funds of $25,000 will be used to purchase a new LifePak monitor that will enable ambulance personnel to get an EKG on site with capability to transfer the results to a cardiologist and/or the hospital that will receive the patient," said James Magee, hospital executive director. "The test can be administered at the patient's home or other location when they are picked up."

In addition, the hospital will use a portion of the grant monies to purchase two recliners and one sleep chair for patient rooms.

Both lawmakers expressed their support and appreciation for the hospital, with Thompson stating that he is a strong advocate for advances in telemedicine healthcare, and commending the hospital for their efforts to start a telemedicine program.

"We thank Sen. Thompson and Rep. Jett for their support of Arkansas' private option health plan," said Magee. "It is already helping deliver health care to previously uninsured patients."

During his remarks Magee noted the hospital treated 100 un-insured patients through the emergency room in January, but the total fell to 64 in February. "With the private option available the number dropped to around 40 for the month of March," he noted. "For us it seems the private option will really pay-off in the long run."

Meanwhile, being a high performing school in the state of Arkansas not only draws recognition and honors, but it may now result in direct financial incentives to build upon that success. And, thanks to high test scores during last year's school year the Piggott Elementary School is one of more than 200 public schools in the state to receive reward funding.

During the 2013-14 school year a total of 206 public schools in the state were recognized as high performing schools through the Arkansas School Recognition and Reward Program. Under this program, the top 20 percent of schools based on academic achievement, academic growth and graduation rates are recognized and rewarded with additional funding.

To honor PES and its students for their achievement, a special ceremony was held Tuesday, April 29 which included State Senator Robert Thompson of Paragould and State Representative Joe Jett of Success. Also taking part were local school officials and students from this year's sixth grade class, whose test scores helped earn the distinction.

As a top-20 percentile performing school the local campus was awarded $21,127.48. According to PES Principal Leean Mann the funds are being used to renovate and update the computer lab at the campus. As part of the ceremony Mann accompanied the lawmakers on a tour of the current lab, and introduced them to the students attending class in the lab.

"Academic achievement and growth not only mean students are getting a quality education, they resulted in additional funds for high performing schools," noted Dr. Tom Kimbrell, Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education. "The funds will allow schools to provide additional resources and tools to help students become ready for college and careers."

Act 1429 of 2013 served to revise the rewards program, and Act 703 of 2013 appropriated the funding. A total of $7 million from the governor's allocation of the General Improvement Fund (GIF) was designed for the program this year, and the legislature supported Gov. Beebe's recommendation and has voted to fund the program from General Revenue for the 2014-15 school year.

Under the plan the schools in the top 20 percent this year, such as PES, received $45.35 per students. Meanwhile, the schools that were in the top 10 percent received $90.70 per student.

Schools receiving the recognition funding established a committee to determine the best use of the monies, but could utilize the monies in a variety of ways. Approved uses included faculty and staff bonuses, educational equipment and materials or personnel to assist with improving or maintaining student performance.

State officials also noted other recognition events were to be held in other districts in the state.

Those wanting to view the complete list of top 10 and top 20 percent schools, and their respective awards, may do so at www.adesharepoint2.arkansas.gov

Originally passed as part of Act 35 of 2004, the school rewards program had never been funded until this year. The measure was championed by Arkansas Learns, a private sector alliance for excellence in public education, in both the 89th General Assembly and the recent Fiscal Session. Those wanting more information on the effort may visit them online at www.ArkansasLearns.org,#RewardSchool

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