Area School Boards Get Set for Classes
All three of the area school boards handled last-minute issues at their regular August meetings, as classes are set to resume on Monday.
Piggott School Board
Members of the Piggott School Board handled a variety of items at their regular meeting Monday night, as classes are now set to begin on Monday. Board members approved several acquisitions, heard an update on the continuing efforts to address deficiencies in the HVAC systems at the high school and hired two new staff members at PES. The board was also updated on a new program within the business department and agreed to extend the district's contract with SubTeach.
With board secretary Hope Burns absent due to a work conflict, the meeting was called to order by President Neil Morgan with members Jeff Benbrook, Bradley Dunlap and Chris Roberts in attendance.
Stacey Peters gave the board an update on efforts within the business department at PHS, and reported a new program would be offered thanks to an 85/15 grant for $68,000. The funds were earmarked to purchase equipment from Apple to facilitate the new program, "Mobile Application Development."
"We'll offer it for the first time this year, and will also offer the second year of the program to students next year," Peters told the board. "A student who goes through both years of the program will get a certificate as a completer."
She indicated the program was designed to teach the basics of building mobile applications, commonly referred to as "apps" for smart phones and other devices. "One of our students isn't likely to create the next "Angry Birds" or anything, but they will learn the basics," she added.
Peters also reported on a recent workshop at the Northeast Arkansas Educational Cooperative she conducted on technical design applications. The PHS instructor was selected to teach the course to other educators due to the fact she is the only teacher certified in the area.
"There have been over 40 PHS students who have earned their certification in Microsoft Office Systems, such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel," she added. "You may remember that Noah Smith took first in the state last year, which earned him a trip to Orlando."
Peters also clarified some misconceptions about the regional and national conventions and competitions the local students attend as members of the FBLA. "Some people have an idea that it's like going on vacation, but I assure you it's a lot of work," she explained. "It involves long bus rides, curfews and early-morning competitions. But, along the way the kids also learn a lot of life lessons about such things as tipping and elevator etiquette."
The local chapter has also enjoyed a great deal of success, qualifying 13 students for national competition in the past three years. This has also garnered the business department additional funding, thanks to efforts by the state. "We were one of 79 schools in the state selected last year to receive additional funding due to our program," she added. "And, we're already in line for the same this year."
Peters noted her department has continued to adjust to changes in technology, and the job market. "We try to stay on the right track, and keep up with the times," she explained. "It's difficult to address the needs of the job market in the Piggott area, so we work in our design and development to try to help our kids get through college and have the best opportunity."
Following her presentation, the board voted to accept the bid from Apple Educational for the equipment being purchased with the grant funding.
The board also heard an update from Ben Trout, president of EPM, Inc., of Fulton, Mo., on the HVAC systems at the high school. The company had been contracted last year to install monitors on the systems at both campuses, and during the course of the process has identified a number of problems.
"The installation is complete, and we're now in what we usually refer to as the "babysitting" phase," Trout told the board. "We'll keep a man here to continue to monitor the system the next few weeks, and continue to update the software."
Trout indicated he had met with Brian Vaughn, of D&G Plumbing and Heating, on units which were in need of repair. He also noted there were five units at the high school which could not be adequately repaired, and were in need of replacement. "The worst is the AAON unit for the cafeteria," Trout noted. "It was low on Freon and had a leak, but it has been patched. But, it could go out at any time and it would be impossible to use the cafeteria under those conditions."
The contractor had informed the board at an earlier meeting about problems with all five of the AAON units, which were acquired nine years ago when the new gym/cafeteria/classroom complex was constructed. He noted shortcuts in manufacturing had resulted in faulty cooling coils, and added putting additional money into the units would be wasteful.
"My recommendation is for the district to go ahead and purchase a new Lennox unit for the cafeteria and get it on order," he explained. "Then, you can advertise for bids on having it installed."
He noted weather conditions would have to improve in order to allow the installation, but added many weeks of turnaround time could be saved by purchasing the unit now. "If you get it ordered, and have it delivered, it will be here if needed," he noted. "If the old one holds out until Thanksgiving it could be installed then."
Based on his recommendation, the board amended the agenda and approved a resolution which will allow Superintendent Charlie Powell to purchase a unit--with the stipulation the cost may not exceed $20,000.
In a related matter, the board agreed to enter into an agreement with Fred Malicoat to provide engineering services for the effort, at a cost of $4,350.
Trout also pointed to the problems with the HVAC system at the high school as one of the main projects which can be addressed with funds from the proposed levy extension. When Piggott patrons go to the polls for the annual school election, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, they'll be asked to extend the current millage rate. Approval of the issue will not mean any new or higher taxes, just an extension of the current rate. The funds would then be earmarked for a number of projects, including HVAC at the high school and the roofs at both campuses.
Following a brief executive session, the board re-convened and hired two new staff members for PES. Hired to teach kindergarten this year was Amanda Jacques, of Marmaduke. Meanwhile, Ashley Riddle, of Piggott, was hired as an aide at Piggott Elementary School.
In other business the board-
* Adopted a resolution allowing the district to do business with employees Jennifer Benson and Jeremy Wortham.
* Accepted the low bid on the purchase of 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel from MFA at a price of $1.70 a gallon.
* Approved the bid from Cousin's Office Furniture for student desks and chairs at a cost of $3,234.44.
* Voted to award the bid for purchasing supplies to Clean Solutions, of Jonesboro.
* Purchased new gym mats for the middle gym from Arkansas Correctional Industries at a cost of $1,520.20.
* Authorized the purchase of 24 new sideline chairs for the PHS gym from Lo Master at a cost of $105.60 each. Powell noted a grant for $250 was used toward the purchase, and a donation from Piggott State Bank covered another $1,000 of the total cost.
* Voted to retire fixed assets, including broken and outdated equipment.
* Agreed to contract with SubTeach for substitutes for the coming school year. It was also noted the cost for the service last year was down about $7,000 from the previous school year.
* Heard from Powell the community pep rally will be held on Monday, Aug. 31, in the PHS gym.
* Agreed to set the date for the annual public meeting to coincide with the regular September gathering, set for Monday, Sept. 14.
Rector School Board
The Rector School Board approved last-minute employment at the Monday's monthly meeting.
Preschool teacher Rhonda March, preschool secretary Shannon Hill, school nurse Kocaina Blount and preschool aide April Huckabee will join the Rector school district this year. Heidi Henderson was also approved to be yearbook sponsor and receive a stipend of $2,000.
Preschool three-year-old teacher Holly Kirklin and school nurse Lorna McCluskey submitted resignations. Both were approved.
Two resolutions were passed. There will not be open polling places for the school board election. Kirk Ford is running unopposed, so voting will be early and absentee ballots only. This action will save the school money, superintendent Johnny Fowler said. Also, $255,500 was transferred from the operating fund to the building fund.
Marmaduke School Board
The Marmaduke School Board approved a bid of $32,399 from Glen Sain Motor Sales in Rector for a new GMC four-wheel drive crew cab SLE truck, which will be used for school business.
Also approved was a bid from CCB energy of $11,319 to completely redo gymnasium lighting, replacing the old outdated lighting with new LED.
Six legal student transfers, four from Paragould and two from Greene County Tech, were approved for students who missed the deadline but wanted to join the Marmaduke district.
Registered nurse Paula Hardin of Marmaduke was hired to fill the school's vacant school nurse position and Brooke Clayton of Mounds will begin her first school year with Marmaduke, teaching kindergarten.
Superintendent Tim Gardner closed the meeting by informing the board Northeast Electronics added a fire alarm system in the agriculture building, which was needed before the school year began. The system cost between $5,000 and $6,000.