Local School Boards Welcome New Members

Thursday, October 16, 2014
Members of the Piggott Schools Board of Education include, from left: Front-Vice President Jeff Benbrook, President Neil Morgan and Secretary Hope Burns. Back-Chris Roberts and Bradley Dunlap.

The October meeting marks the first for two new local school board members, as Chris Roberts and Mike Trail begin their terms on the Piggott and Rector bodies. In turn, each of the boards handled a full agenda at their regular meetings.

Rector Board

The Rector School Board welcomed new member Mike Trail and selected officers during Monday's regular meeting in the school's administration building. Trail, who was unopposed in the recent election, is filling the position left vacant by longtime member James Turner. The Board's incumbent officers were re-elected to their positions, with Jody Simmons chosen as president, Tony Lockhart selected as vice-president and Kirk Ford as secretary. Board member Kim Isom was also in attendance.

Members of the Rector School Board are, from left: Front--Tony Lockhart, vice-president, and Jody Simmons, president. Back--Mike Trail, Kim Isom and Kirk Ford, secretary.

School Report Cards

The Board heard Rector elementary and high school, like many schools across the state, received ratings of "Needs Improvement" on their school report cards following standardized testing ratings from this past year.

"Ninety-plus percent of our schools in the state are in Needs Improvement," elementary principal Nate Henderson said. Henderson noted the testing parameters have changed recently and curriculum is being altered to better match this, which has created a transitional state for many schools, Rector included. "The main thing is we know what areas we need to address and are taking the steps to do that."

Elementary students tested were those taking part in the Benchmark exams, students in the third through sixth grades.

In high school, principal Wade Williams noted students taking end of course exams reached a level of "Achieved" in literacy, but were at "Needs Improvement" in math. Williams said he is addressing this area and accepted the responsibility for the lapse, though noted the school is "operating with a skeleton crew."

Both principals felt the rankings skewed a bit low for the school, and advised the Board they expect scores to rise as adjustments were made.

Principal Reports

Williams noted last week's homecoming went well and the students enjoyed taking part in activities. He also shared news of junior Kade Scott's win in the 2A State Golf Tournament this past Wednesday. Scott will now be competing at the overall state tournament with a 9 a.m. tee-time Thursday at Pleasant Valley in Little Rock. The Board extended their congratulations to Scott for an outstanding effort.

Henderson noted the elementary school will be hosting a special parent night event on Nov. 3. The evening will serve as an opportunity for parents to visit the campus and see work done by the students and will feature a Dome Theater, which will show IMAX films which feature educational topics.

In other business, the Board:

* Voted to expel a sophomore student for disciplinary reasons for the remainder of the semester.

* Approved the classified and licensed personnel policies.

* Approved the school's list of retired assets.

* Accepted the minutes from the Sept. 8 meeting.

* Accepted the financial report.

Piggott Board

A variety of acquisitions were approved at Monday night's meeting of the Piggott School Board, as new member Chris Roberts took part in his first meeting of the body. Among the issues addressed were the election of officers, consideration of bids on a number of purchases and a change in the meeting schedule for the winter months.

After calling the meeting to order, board vice president Neil Morgan presided over the election of officers and was chosen to serve as president for the coming year. Chosen as vice president was Jeff Benbrook, while Hope Burns will serve as secretary. Later, the board also voted to have Burns serve as disbursing officer.

After taking care of the consent agenda items, Morgan opened an expulsion hearing for two students although no one was on hand to represent them. In accordance with the rules pertaining to such matters, the hearing was opened and the board proceeded with their agenda allowing time for representatives of the students to arrive.

The purchase of a new router to connect the high school and elementary campuses was approved from Centurylink. Superintendent Charlie Powell noted the cost would include a one-time charge of $2,690.70 and an annual fee if $406.70. The matter passed on a vote of 5-0.

In a related matter, the board also approved the purchase of a filter and broadband switch, which is being acquired through the state. Cost of the filter was $76 per month, while the cost of the switch was set at $222 a month. This also passed without dissent.

Board members also approved the purchase of a new Variquest machine for PES, which is used to print posters and other larger materials for the campus. The purchase in the amount of $4,995 was also approved unanimously.

Other purchases included a new Toshiba copier from Hunton Office Supplies for $11,569.57 and a new HVAC system for the PES counselor's office at a cost of $3,685 from D&G Plumbing and Heating.

Also approved was a new set of policies for the board, suggested by the Arkansas School Board Association. During the discussion Morgan also took a moment to read aloud a review of the responsibilities and duties of a school board member. He noted the review was a good reminder for the newest member of the board, and those already serving, of the capabilities and limitations placed on the body. Afterward, the new policy was adopted on a vote of 5-0.

The board also voted to accept the bid for having shades erected over the bleachers at the softball and baseball diamonds. The grant application had been submitted jointly between the school district and the City of Piggott, with the monies to be used for improvements at Independence Park.

The board voted to accept the bid from Davis Playground, of Maumelle, in the amount of $12,406.10 for each pair of shades and agreed to purchase two sets for use at the park. The shades are to be erected over the bleachers adjacent to the baseball, softball and Little League fields.

Late in the meeting, after no one appeared for the expulsion hearing the board voted 5-0 to expel the two students involved for the remainder of the current semester.

In other business the board--

* Approved the purchase of 1,000 gallons of gasoline from Watson Oil Company at a cost of $2.98 a gallon.

* Accepted the proposal from Clean Solutions, of Jonesboro, for the purchase of supplies.

* Agreed to change the time for the monthly board meetings to 5:30 p.m. beginning with the November gathering.

* Were informed by Powell the district had received approval of a $15,000 matching-funds grant to help pay for improvements to the district's broadband service.

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