Area School Boards Meet

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rector School Board

The Rector School Board restructured payments on bonds, rehired staff and set the last day of school in action at the monthly meeting Thursday, April 7.

The board approved rehiring all classified staff, which is unlicensed staff on contract. Seventh and eighth grade science and biology teacher Mallory Parker's resignation was also approved.

The board has discussed for a few months refinancing bonds from when the gym was built and decided to take the restructuring step at Thursday's meeting. This will allow the district to save more than $400,000 over a period of time, superintendent Johnny Fowler said.

The board also approved next year's calendar and changed this year's last day of school from Monday, May 23, to Saturday, May 21. "The school buses will be running that Saturday," Fowler said.

Piggott School Board

Members of the Piggott Schools Board of Education severed ties with food service provider Chartwells at their regular meeting Monday evening. And, following a lengthy executive session the board accepted three retirement resignations, and approved a handful of job openings but tabled consideration of the renewal of teacher contracts. This effectively leaves the staff of the entire district in limbo pertaining to next year, with the exception of Superintendent Charlie Powell, who is under contract through the 2016-17 school year.

An extension of Powell's contract, which was voted down last year, was also broached as former school board member, and Piggott Area Chamber of Commerce president, Shawn Parker, as he addressed the board prior to the executive session about concerns within the community.

During the meeting the board also approved a variety of purchases and contracts for services. The annual audit was also approved, along with a bid for engineering for improvements slated at PES. Ben Trout, with EPM Inc., also reported on savings realized by installation of the HVAC monitoring software last summer.

With all members in attendance, along with key administrative staff, board president Jeff Benbrook called the meeting to order. After dispensing with the minutes of the previous meeting and financial reports, the board addressed the full agenda.

Offering his update on the HVAC monitoring system, Trout provided the board with a full report. "The six month number for the elementary school, and the seven month numbers for the high school, should be what we're looking at for the longterm," he explained.

The report reflected a savings of 18.82 percent in utility costs at PES, while the savings at the high school were just under 28 percent for an average of just under 24 percent district-wide. According to Trout, this equates to a savings of a little over $11,100 at the elementary campus and over $31,700 at PHS. Combined with the mechanical equipment savings this adds up to a total savings of nearly $75,000 for the six to seven month period and should net a savings of more than $135,000 for a full year.

Trout also introduced Corey Harris, who will serve as the regional manager for Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri in the future. "But, I will always be available if you need me," he added. "Bottom line is we want you to be happy, no matter how much you save."

The board also heard from Dan Wolf, of food service provider Chartwells, and considered the annual contract with the firm. Accompanied by the local director, and his regional manager, Wolf updated the board on efforts to increase participation going forward. He noted communication and leadership issues had been identified in the past, and added they were being addressed. He also outlined a variety of promotion efforts designed to increase the number of students utilizing the cafeteria service.

Wolf also updated the board on pricing, noting the state had manadated a slight increase in costs. Currently the cost to the district for each lunch is $2.004, and with the increase the cost would rise to $2.0561.

"That's for lunches only, breakfast is considered a half-meal, and we only charge around 97-cents for those," he explained.

Following the update, Benbrook offered a motion to extend the contract with Chartwells for an additional year. But, when put to a vote the other four board members dissented and measure failed 4-1.

The district entered into the contract with the provider two years ago in an effort to offset a growing deficit in the food service department. Last year they were granted a one year extension, as the effort appeared to be offsetting the losses. And, earlier this year the company responded to a number of complaints by replacing the local manager.

Following the meeting Powell was asked how the district would proceed with securing food service for the coming school year, and she noted it was unclear at this time. In a related note, two of the jobs which were opened for advertising included food service director and one cook.

During her report to the board, Powell reported the current census of students was down slightly to 904. She also reminded the board that graduation will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 15, with bacculearate services set for 6 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at FBC. She also reported on the recent work at PES, which included installation of new bleachers in the gym and repair to the tile floor. She also indicated the new HVAC will be installed in the new gym prior to graduation, and updated the board on the upcoming testing schedule.

The board also discussed a request by Sandra Little for the FCCLA to hold a donkey basketball game, and agreed to allow the event to be held in the middle gym. Board member Jennifer Rahn agreed, but noted she felt it should be played in the new gym.

Prior to the executive session the board heard from Parker, as he addressed the body in his capacity as president of the Piggott Area Chamber of Commerce.

"I've heard from a number of members of the community concerning the administration of our schools. And, we'd like to know if you can tell us the status of Mrs. Powell's contract," he noted. "I understand you cannot discuss job performance in an open meeting, but I also know she was hired to help straighten-out some of the fiscal issues with the district. And, if she's accomplished that-why hasn't her contract been extended?"

When asked directly whether the district was in better financial shape now, as opposed to when Powell took the job, board member Hope Burns affirmed it was.

"This school is an extension of our community, and the people are concerned," he surmised. "If you hired her to address these issues, and things are better, then it seems to me she did what she was brought here to do."

Following Parker's comments the board voted to enter into an executive session, re-convening over half an hour later.

Once they returned to regular session the board voted, based on Powell's recommendation, to accept three retirement resignations. Included were PES parent center coordinator Mona Scott,, elementary school cook Linda Banning and bus driver Charles Conley.

Board members then voted to table the issue of re-hiring the teaching staff at both campuses on a vote of 5-0. Afterward, they voted to name Paul Seegraves as girl's track coach for the remainder of this school year. Seegraves takes over for Walter Rau, who has been deployed to Guatamela with the National Guard.

The board also voted to open several jobs, including parent center coordinator, distance learning, reading specialist, due process clerk/aide, bus driver, cook and cafeteria director.

And, they voted to hire Laura Brantley and Penny Toombs for eight full days for ACT testing.

Afterward, they voted to adjourn without further action.

In other business the board--

Accepted the bid from CDWG of $6,865.75 for the purchase of 28 printers.

Approved the bid from John R. Green Company for cubbies for several PES classrooms.

Purchased six lab tables for PHS from John R. Green Company at a cost of $17,615.40.

Agreed to a contract with NewWave Communications for internet service for next year at a cost of $3,150 a month. Powell also noted the state is working on a plan to provide service at no charge, but the program is still in the planning stages.

Approved the bid for engineering work at PES in the amount of $15,200. The projects involved include work on the elementary gym and cafeteria HVAC and a new sidewalk and awning at the front entrance of the building.

Accepted the bid from Gov.Connection for the purchase of 10 Chromebooks to be used by the ALE class at PES, at a cost of $2,905.45.

Approved the auditors report, which held no findings.

Authorized a "flow chart" suggested by the auditors.

Contracted with Connex Rehab for occupational and physical therapy for students for the coming school year.

Purchased student supplemental insurance from HSR at a cost of $7,627.

Accepted the low bid from ITSavvy for the purchase of 67 desktop computers for use by teachers at both campuses at a cost of $63,405.50.

Approved four School Choice applications.

Marmaduke School Board

The Marmaduke School Board made several decisions affecting the 2016-2017 school year at Monday's monthly meeting.

The board approved the calendar for next year with school beginning Monday, Aug. 15. A raise of $1,100 for employees with a master's degree or above was approved and the same raise was given to superintendent Tim Gardner.

Michelle Hardin's resignation from the school lunchroom was accepted, and two special education teachers, Allison West and Jennifer Adams, were hired for the elementary school.

Deidre Pillow was employed as one of next year's sixth grade teachers. Samantha Vaughn was hired as a high school English teacher and Mike Cook was reassigned from high school special education to high school English. A stipend of $1,000 was approved for Kyle Pieri and Jim Defries for helping with junior high baseball.

Renovation of 11 of the school's bathrooms and purchase of a 2014 model school bus from American Bus Sales of Oklahoma for $77,500 were also approved.

Reassignments in the preschool were Tina Boggs from the preschool room to the baby room, Jill Parton from the two-year-old room to lead preschool teacher, Christi Hudspeth from one-year-old room to the two-year-old room, Leanne Parrish from baby room to the two-year-old room. Tasha Hendrix was hired to join the preschool room and Christi Hudspeth will be offered a contract depending on her obtaining CDA certification.

School board members Jason Weatherford, Stacy Speer, Chuck Taylor, Kevin Hawley and Chuck Long were present for the meeting.

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