School Boards Meet

Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Members of the Piggott High School FCCLA speak to members of the school board during Monday night's meeting.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

A Rector-area educator was hired as the new principal for Piggott Elementary School at Monday night's regular board meeting. With a large crowd of interested spectators on hand, the board also reviewed the bids on the proposed football stadium project, choosing to table the matter pending a public meeting on the proposal set for 5 p.m. Monday.

Board members also saw presentations by both the FCCLA and FBLA chapters at PHS, handled a variety of purchases and approved bonuses for all staff members.

With board member Jennifer Rahn absent from the gathering, the meeting was called to order by president Jeff Benbrook. After dispensing with the consent agenda items, the board turned to old business and approved a bid for tuckpointing at PES.

At the April meeting the board rejected bids for tuckpointing the buildings at both campuses, and in the weeks since Tom's Tuckpointing of Corning reworked its proposal to include just the PES buildings. Based on superintendent Charlie Powell's recommendation, the bid of $51,500 was accepted on a vote of 4-0.

Members of both the FCCLA and FBLA chapters next took turns updating the board on their efforts, and successes of the current school year. The board was also updated on upcoming competitions and conferences, and fund raising efforts associated with those trips, including Thursday night's donkey basketball game beings sponsored by the FCCLA.

Afterward, the board heard from Tim Cowen, of Athletic Projects Consultants, on the bid opening for the proposed track/artificial turf project for Parker Field. Cowen reviewed the bids on the various phases of the project, which were opened April 28. He noted participation was good, and most of the phases had several bids to consider, along with combination bids as well.

The project specifications call for demolition of the current field, addition of a base and construction of a track. The artificial turf, which comes with a nearly $325,000 price tag, would also be installed. He indicated the total cost of the project as bid was just over the original estimates of a million dollars, and came in at $1,081,485.

He also noted the total cost does not reflect the demolition and reconstruction of the current concession stand/restroom facility or address any of the other needed improvements.

Cowen also reported a group of local civic leaders made a trip to Gosnell recently to tour their new track and football field facility, and called upon Joe Cole to comment.

"When this first came up I was skeptical, I had a lot of questions," Cole offered. "But, after looking into this I don't know how we cannot go ahead with this plan."

Cole, who is planning a reunion in early September in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the filming of the movie A Face in the Crowd, indicated he expects the city to be a focal point of media coverage. He noted the football field would be a key part of the celebration, which will include re-enactment of two scenes from the movie which were filmed at the old field.

He indicated that he had begun the process of canvassing many of the former football players for donations toward the project, and estimated between $100,000 and $150,000 could be raised toward the total cost.

"We need to address the issue of the concession stand and restrooms, and the visitors dressing room," noted board member Hope Burns. "And, where we stand on money as far as donations."

Benbrook echoed the sentiment, and added he felt a public meeting on the subject was warranted. "We need to give the public a chance to comment and clear up any misconceptions about this," he offered.

The board then agreed to table the matter pending the meeting, which is scheduled to be held at 5 p.m. Monday, May 16, in the PHS library. All interested individuals are encouraged to attend, and offer their comments on the plan.

The board also agreed to allow the district to once again offer the Summer Feeding Program through the USDA, and voted 4-0 to proceed with the application. Powell indicated the numbers had been low in previous years, forcing them to end the program early, but noted there was a need in the community.

Powell also reported on the recent accreditation of both PES and PHS, noting there were no citations for either campus. High school principal Barry DeHart also commented on PHS earning a "B" on the school report card from the state for the second year in a row.

"We got a letter from the Arkansas Department of Education congratulating us on achieving a "B" two years in a row, he explained. "It's a great accomplishment. We're the only local district to get a "B" and 80 percent of the 1,045 schools in Arkansas had either a C, D or F."

DeHart indicated the letter from the state noted PHS was among the elite and offered hopes that, "your example will inspire others to improve both performance and gains."

"Well done, you and the staff at the high school have done a good job," Benbrook offered.

Late in the meeting the board also voted to approve a $750 bonus, before taxes, for all personnel. The measure passed without dissent.

During her report, Powell indicated the installation of the new HVAC units is nearly complete for the new gym, as preparations are made for Sunday's graduation. She noted the current census was 898 students, and reiterated that graduation would be held at 3 p.m. Sunday in the new PHS gym.

Following an executive session, the board reconvened and took care of several personnel matters. They voted to hire Jon Wellman as summer school instructor, then accepted the resignation of head girls basketball coach Chase Halbrook and food service director Kim Moore. They also voted to accept the resignations of two coaches from specific duties, although they will remain on staff. David Reynolds resigned as head baseball coach and Nikki Speer resigned as head volleyball coach.

The board then voted to hire Dowdy as the new principal at PES. A Rector resident, Dowdy is currently on staff at East Poinsett County.

In other business the board:

* Approved 11 School Choice applications, with seven students transferring into the Piggott District and four transferring out.

* Accepted the bid of $11,091 for the purchase of TLI testing materials.

* Agreed to accept the bid of $3,000 on the purchase of materials for use by the high school ALE class and summer school from APEX.

* Authorized the purchase of a new desk for the PES library at a cost of $5,595.70 from John Green Company.

* Voted to accept the 2016-17 VI-B budget for special education efforts.

* Adopted a resolution allowing the district to do business with Burns Floor Covering, with Hope Burns excusing herself from the discussion and voting.

Rector Board

The Rector School Board approved school choice forms, the budget for the 2017-2018 school year and hired personnel during Monday's monthly meeting.

The budget approved was split into $3,100,000 for salary fund expenditures, $1,100,000 for instructional expense, $570,000 for maintenance and operation, $265,000 for pupil transportation expense, $340,000 for other operating expense and $189,200 for building fund expense.

The board then accepted five school choice forms, three of which are for returning students.

High school special education teacher Donnatha Pelts' resignation was approved and Pamela Mills was hired to fill the position. Amanda Brannon was hired as a pre-school aide, Betty Godfrey as a custodial worker and Clinton Haley as a science teacher.

Fowler reported the school's total operating fund stands at $1,825,076, and total assets are $2,050,079.

Board members Jody Simmons, Tony Lockhart, Kim Isom, Kirk Ford and Mike Trail attended the meeting.

Marmaduke Board

The Marmaduke School Board discussed developing a healthcare profession career pathway, approved school choice forms and hired new personnel at Monday's monthly meeting.

Thirty-four school choice forms were approved with 21 new students from Greene County Tech, Paragould, Corning and Rector transferring into the district. Thirteen of the forms approved were returning students.

A series of resignations and new hires occurred. Nikki Robinson resigned as elementary girls coach and Amy Pratt was hired to fill the position. Third grade has reached a point where another teacher is needed and Genny McCord from Senath was hired. B.J. Wright resigned from a bus driver position and Matthew Collier was hired. Cook Michelle Hardin resigned last month and Nioaka Gardner was hired to fill the position. Tiffany Reddick resigned from the family and consumer science teaching position and the district is currently looking for a replacement. Tina Shaw resigned as senior high cheerleading sponsor to allow Melissa Newell to return to the position. Vicki McDowell resigned from her longtime role as a self-contained paraprofessional, citing she was ready to retire.

Principal Bill Muse proposed bringing a healthcare profession career pathway into the school system as a way to give students an advantage when either going straight to work after graduation or as a step up in advanced education. The program could potentially give students the tools to become a nurse, EMT or CNA. After presenting the idea, the board strongly agreed it's important to give students every advantage available and told Muse to proceed with determining what is involved in developing a program for Marmaduke.

The district's financial report showed a balance of $2,247,658. School board members Chuck Taylor, Kevin Hawley and Chuck Long were present for the meeting.

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