School Boards Meet

Thursday, September 17, 2015
Piggott High School Principal Barry DeHart addresses the annual public meeting Monday night concerning efforts at the PHS campus. Also pictured is Piggott Elementary School Principal Leann Mann, who had earlier offered her report.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

Area school boards held their regular meetings in the past week, as classes are now in full swing for the current year. The Piggott School District also hosted their annual meeting for the public in the PHS library.

PHS Public Meeting

The Piggott School Board hosted its annual public meeting Monday afternoon at the PHS library, with nearly two dozen in attendance. The public gatherings are required by law, and held each year to update patrons on the various federal and state programs within the district. The meetings are designed to afford the district a chance to review efforts from the previous year, and outline the plans for 2015-16.

Superintendent Charlie Powell called the meeting to order, and after a brief overview of the format introduced Ray Beardsley, of First Security Financial. He gave those in attendance a brief review of the millage extension sought by the board, which was decided Tuesday during the school election. He noted the district's current millage of 35.44 was well below the state average of 37, and indicated it would take an increase of 3.7 mills to realize the same financial benefits as extending the current rate.

Next, PES Principal Leann Mann offered an update on the programs and efforts at the elementary campus. After reviewing the campus mission statement, and accreditation, she offered an overview. "We have 24 regular grade level classrooms serving 427 kindergarten through sixth grade students," she explained. "We also have our ABC pre-school, which serves 60 students, as we have a total of 487 students on our campus."

She noted the students are served by the regular staff members along with three resource teachers, two speech teachers, a Reading Recovery teacher and one school counselor.

"We are actually one of the largest elementary schools in the state with nearly 500 students," she explained. "Most other districts have more than one elementary campus, even Corning has two."

Mann also outlined the parental involvement at the local campus, noting it was likely their weakest effort.

She explained the current status of the school with the state, as a "needs improvement" campus based on their 2014 Benchmark scores. "Although we're in the top 20 percent statewide with our high test scores, and we've been awarded over $50,000 from the state through Act 35, we're still a "needs improvement" school," she noted. "The best explanation I can get from the state is that we're not continuing to show growth, which hurts us even though our scores were great to begin with."

Mann also reviewed the campus' AMO (Annual Measurable Objectives) and noted the school would not longer be using the PARCC assessment, opting instead for the ACT Aspire.

She also reported on the PES first, second and fifth grade test scores from last year, noting the local students scored higher than almost every other school in the region--with the exception of Valley View. Across the board the Piggott students were among the highest in Northeast Arkansas in vocabulary, reading, language and math.

Mann also gave a report on the Arkansas School Grading System, which gave PES an overall score of C. The grading system was mandated by Act 696 in 2013, and requires the state to assign a letter grade scale for schools. The goal of the measure was to help parents, and other members of the public, to better understand how well a school is performing, and to begin conversations on how to continually improve the local education effort.

She also provided the board members with a report on activities and efforts at the local campus, as well as a calendar of events which are set for later this fall.

PHS principal Barry DeHart offered his report next, including an overview of ACT testing. He noted a total of 36 seniors took the ACT test during the 2013-14 school year, and added all of the average scores were comparable to other districts. "On reading we scored a 22.53 while the state average was 22.46," he noted. "We scored 21.25 on English and the state average was 21.38, our math score was 21.47 while the state average is 21.02, and our science total was 22.14, compared to 21.9 statewide."

DeHart added the composite average for Piggott students that year was 21.42, compared to the statewide average of 21.24. "So, I feel our kids compare well to other districts in the state when it comes to ACT scores," he added. "And, of course for anyone wanting to go on to college that's really important."

He also reviewed the district's AMO status, and accreditation. DeHart also noted the Arkansas School Grading System had awarded PHS a B. "There were 1,050 campuses reviewed, and only 162 received an A," he explained. "We were one of just 322 to receive a B, while there were 365 C's, 158 D's and 43 F's."

He reported on test scores within several departments as well.

"Our CTE test scores were good, our students averaged 86 percent on the Survey of Agriculture Systems test, 89 percent on the Agriculture Mechanics test and 83 percent on Survey of Agriculture Systems, Two," he added.

Other classes were also very successful, with the business students posting a solid 100 percent in Computer Based Applications, 91 percent in Digital Communication I, 95 percent in Digital Communications II, 75 percent in Digital Communications III and 87 percent in Digital Communications IV.

Average scores for Child Care Guidance was 92 percent, Child Development was 94 percent and Parenting was 100 percent, although students only scored 63 percent on Food Nutrition.

DeHart also reported on efforts to correct deficiencies in math and literacy, noting they are offering after school tutoring, Academic Improvement Plans and classroom walk-through's along with a variety of other measures.

Afterward, Sherry Taylor, the new federal grants and programs coordinator, offered an update on ACSIP (Arkansas Comprehensive School Improvement Plan) and federal programs. She reported on the various programs, and updated patrons on their impact. "Our allotment for Title 1, Part A, is $317,786.72 this year, while our Title 2A is $42,061.55."

She also noted the Title 6 funding from the state for this school year is $47,510.90, which is earmarked to rural and low income districts. She also provided a brief update of the goals for the current school year.

Kim Moore, Child Nutrition Director, next gave an update of operations at the two cafeterias. She explained the current situation, and outlined efforts for the coming year. Moore also outlined the services available to parents and patrons, noting nutritional and caloric information are available on the district website concerning each meal.

The final presentation was by Penny Toombs, as she gave an overview of the Piggott School PACE (Program for Academic and Creative Excellence) effort at the two campuses. "We currently have 40 high school and 30 elementary school students placed in the program," she told those assembled.

Toombs also reviewed the process for referral of students to the PACE program, and outlined how the process is completed. She also gave an update on Advanced Placement testing, and reported this year the program has added a Music Theory class taught by Jeremy Wortham.

Afterward, Powell thanked those in attendance for their time and closed the meeting.

Rector Board

The Rector School Board approved annual budgeting and changes in teaching positions at Monday's monthly meeting.

State and federal budgets (including funding for school supplies), special education and employee salaries and benefits were approved. A total of $8,391 was allocated for special education, $26,093 was set aside for technology and $83,899 was budgeted for employee salaries and benefits.

Resignations and hiring of new staff was also approved. A resignation from cheerleading sponsor Rachel McNamee was accepted and will take effect on Nov. 7 at the end of the football season.

Preschool teacher Rhonda March's resignation was approved, and the board approved hiring Letecia Dooley for the open position. The board also approved Katie Matheney as an elementary aide.

The school operating funds at the end of last month are $1,231,905.94, and the total of all funds is $2,002,594.68.

Piggott Board Meeting

Members of the Piggott Schools Board of Education reviewed a number of topics at their regular meeting Monday night. The board heard a lengthy update from EPM on the monitoring system installed at both campuses over the summer, approved purchase of new air conditioning units at both campuses and discussed changing the date of graduation for the class of 2016. During her update, Superintendent Charlie Powell noted an increase of about 100 students compared to last year.

With board president Neil Morgan absent, the meeting was called to order by vice president Jeff Benbrook with members Hope Burns, Bradley Dunlap and Chris Roberts in attendance.

After approving the usual consent agenda items, the board heard a lengthy report by Jim Johnson, senior engineer for EPM. Earlier this year the company installed a system at both campuses, which can monitor and control HVAC and other equipment.

Johnson indicated technician Clint Davis, who was involved in the installation, has remained in Piggott to help acclimate the local staff and contractors to the new system. He noted the Linux-based computer system is monitored 24/7 by the company, and can also be accessed by local staff if needed.

He demonstrated the software used to access the system, and illustrated how it displayed each campus in zones. Using the application, administrators and maintenance staff can adjust heating and cooling systems throughout the school district. The readout provides real time temperatures and settings, and allows pre-sets for when the system should be in operation, and when it should be off, in each individual room.

Johnson also noted the system monitors such equipment as coolers and freezers in the two cafeterias, alerting personnel should there be a failure. He also demonstrated an application which allows the charting of power usage, designed to identify areas which need improvement.

He added Davis was expected to remain on hand for a few more days, as he continues to work with the maintenance staff and the district's contractor for HVAC, D&G Plumbing and Heating.

Afterward, the board turned their attention to the purchase of new HVAC systems for four classrooms at PES and the PHS cafeteria. The bids for the classrooms at PES were submitted by D&G Plumbing and Heating. The contractor quoted a cost of $6,350 each for replacement of the heating and air conditioning systems in three of the rooms and a cost of $5,300 for replacement of the third. The bids were accepted on a vote of 4-0.

Meanwhile, a bid of $15,721 was submitted by RJI Sales, of Chesterfield, Mo., for replacement of the unit which serves the PHS cafeteria. Powell indicated two bids were actually submitted on the unit, although one was not in the correct format and could not be considered.

The bid was accepted by the board without dissent.

Late in the meeting the board discussed a suggestion to change the day the PHS class of 2016 takes part in graduation. "In years past we've had kids miss their graduation because they were playing in the state baseball or softball tournament," PHS Principal Barry DeHart told the board. "It has been suggested that we consider moving graduation to Sunday afternoon to avoid any conflicts."

DeHart indicated any change would eventually mean a conflict with Mother's Day, but noted he felt consideration was warranted. "You're never going to be able to fully make everyone happy, but this would at least eliminate the chance that some kid is going to miss their graduation," he noted. "We don't want to force them to make a choice."

The board weighed the pros and cons of the proposed change, including how it would affect those wanting to attend other graduations in the area. Afterward, they agreed to table the matter until the October meeting, allowing time for input from the students and parents.

DeHart also discussed senior privileges with the board, which he noted have dwindled in past years. "They used to have a lot of privileges, but most of those have been extended to all the students," he explained. "After Christmas we always allow seniors to leave campus for lunch, and I'm asking that you allow us to begin that now."

DeHart explained changes at the PHS cafeteria have caused a crowding situation for second lunch, as all of the students in grades nine through 12 are included. "Due to the difference in portion sizes, the seventh and eighth grade students are served together," he explained. "But, that means we have all the others for second lunch, which is around 300 kids."

Based on the fact the cafeteria only seats about 300, and the privilege would be extended following Christmas anyway, the board agreed to allow the change.

"Not all of them will go, but offering them the chance will help a lot with the staff trying to handle that many kids eating at once," DeHart surmised.

In other business the board-

* Approved the district continuity plan updates.

* Accepted the low bid of $1.89.5 per gallon on the purchase of 1,000 gallons of diesel from MFA Oil.

* Voted to approve the annual financial reports, along with the Special Education annual financial reports, for the 2014-15 school year.

* Agreed to a resolution documenting the five percent increase afforded staff salaries for the 2014-15 school year, as required by auditors.

* Were informed by Powell the current census of students stands at 978, up from last year's average of 876.

* Discussed efforts by the local district in preparing for the 3A State Volleyball Tournament, which will be held at Piggott High School in late October.

Marmaduke Board

The Marmaduke School Board approved budgeting, school choice forms and a minimum wage increase for the district at Monday's monthly meeting.

The board approved a smaller budget than usual for salaries, benefits, technology, supplies and special education. Last year the budget was $680,000, but the district is now looking at a cut in federal and state funding, and this year's budget is $669,000.

The board approved seven legal student transfers, four from Greene County Tech and three from Paragould.

The minimum wage is set to go up statewide in January and the board approved a $65 a day pay for substitute teachers, up $5 from last year, which will begin in January. A stipend for Mike Cook, who is now needed to teach an extra ninth grade English class, in the amount of $3,000 was also approved. The extra class is needed due to the growth to 70 students in the grade.

Kenny Vangilder, archery coach for the Greyhounds, has resigned and Ella Shelton was approved for the position.

Also, $250,000 was transferred from the school's operating fund to the building fund for later use.

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