School Boards Hold Meetings

Thursday, September 15, 2016
The Piggott School District recognized Jeff Benbrook (right) at Monday night's school board meeting for 10 years of service on the body. Making the presentation was Piggott Superintendent Charlie Powell.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

Rector Board

Use of the former National Guard Armory will soon become reality.

Rector School District superintendent Johnny Fowler said earlier this week the school - which received the facility from the Rector City Council for $10,000 - is merely awaiting survey results before proceeding with plans to utilize the new space.

"We had both agreed."Fowler said of the school board and the city council. We're just waiting on the survey. I think we'll have that done in the next couple weeks."

During its meeting Monday, the Rector School Board adopted its 2016-17 fiscal year budget and brushed up and modernized a few in-house policies.

Fowler said the newly adopted budget will be posted to the district Web site in accordance with Arkansas Department of Education law.

With the state's Oct. 1 deadline to report official enrollment figures for state and other funding and initiatives, Fowler reported enrollment at the school has remained fairly steady since the first day of school last month.

"I'd say we've dropped off a little bit since the beginning of the year," he said. "But I think we're still doing OK."

Fowler reported no significant issues thus far into the new school year.

The Rector School Board is set to meet again 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, at the administration building.

Piggott Board

The Piggott School Board hosted their annual public meeting Monday evening in the newly-renovated library at Piggott Elementary. Afterward, they held their regular monthly meeting and handled a variety of agenda items.

Public Meeting

With all members in attendance, along with key administrators, the public meeting was called to order by outgoing president Jeff Benbrook. Also on hand were the two candidates for Benbrook's seat on the board, Jim Threatt and Chris Crawford.

Benbrook then introduced Superintendent Charlie Powell, who offered an overview of the meeting and updated projects. She noted the HVAC projects, elementary library, PES gym bleachers and football field projects were all completed. She also indicated additional work is continuing, including the removal of dirt from around the campuses in an effort to improve drainage. She also noted work will continue on the track project, and plans are being formulated to install a new ventilation system in the agri-building.

Next, Powell introduced PES Principal Anthony Dowdy, who provided an update on efforts at that campus. Dowdy reviewed the ACT-Aspire test scores, and noted the local campus received a "C" on the annual report card from the state. He also reviewed efforts to improve the score, such as intervention the first hour of each day and an increased emphasis on writing for all grade levels.

PHS Principal Barry DeHart addressed the board next, offering a review of test scores and programs at the high school campus. He also applauded the efforts of the district's CTE classes, which include a number of vocational and extra-curricular efforts. He noted 50 of the 53 students were proficient in their chosen effort, or about 94 percent. DeHart also again offered congratulations to the PHS chapters of the FBLA and FCCLA for their success last year, which resulted in four national qualifiers and one national championship.

Sherry Taylor, ACSIP Supervisor and Federal Programs Coordinator, then offered a review of federal funding. She noted the primary funding comes from Title I-Part A, of which this year the local district is earmarked to receive $206,882.53. These funds are used for salaries and benefits for a Reading Recovery Specialist, Literacy Specialist, Federal Programs Coordinator and Instructional Assistants and Aides. Funds are also used for professional development and supplemental materials and supplies.

The district will also receive $38,049.65 from Title II-A, or the "Improving Teacher Quality Grant." These funds are used for class-size reduction, as well as salary and benefits for one full time teacher.

Title VI funds are from the state and are used for the rural and low-income school program effort. These funds are used much the same as the Title I-Part A monies, and this year amount to $19,203.45.

Taylor also reported on the ACSIP school improvement committee, and their efforts to revise their plan throughout the year to meet school needs.

The board next heard from Food Service Manager Sherry Boyster, who also serves as Child Nutrition Director. She updated the board on the efforts through the cafeterias, and fielded several questions.

The public meeting ended with a presentation by Penny Toombs, PACE coordinator for the district. She outlined the PACE (Program for Academic and Creative Excellence) effort at both campuses, and explained the process for identifying students for inclusion.

She indicated there were five new placements at PES, raising the total of students in the program to 24. She also noted there were two new students at PHS, increasing their participation to 44.

Afterward, the public meeting was closed without comment from the public.

Business Meeting

Following a short break, the board turned their attention to a full agenda for the regular business meeting. As he opened the gathering Benbrook offered his condolences to PHS teacher Sandra Little, whose father, Larry Patterson, passed away last week.

Under old business the board re-visited discussions on acquiring property adjacent to the high school campus. During the August meeting the board had reviewed an offer to purchase a vacant home on East Poplar, across from the PHS gym. Powell indicated she had been informed a lot, and a small house, are available west of the gym on South Taylor Avenue. She noted the lot was for sale for $6,000 while the house was available for $32,500. The board discussed the merits of making the acquisition, but tabled the matter as more information is gathered.

The board then heard from engineer Fred Malicott, who presented initial drawings on the improvements to Parker Field. He offered a plan which calls for the construction of new home bleachers, designed to seat 2,500, along with a new press box/restroom/concession stand facility.

The initial plans called for the facility to be located at the rear of the new home bleachers, prompting a discussion on whether there is enough room based on the current fence and parking lot. After reviewing the pros and cons, the board noted a free-standing facility would better serve the needs, constructed just north of the current concession stand.

Malicott asked the board members to review the plans, and seek input from others, with an eye toward re-visiting the effort at the next meeting. Powell explained the process would be a slow one, as any plans would also have to be approved by the state before construction could begin.

The board then voted to amend the agenda, and consider a change order for work in the PES gym. The amendment, and the measure, passed on a vote of 5-0.

Powell offered a report on the state's Special Education monitoring visit to the district. She indicated the report was favorable, noting "we've gotten the results back and we meet all requirements. I want to the thank the teachers, and Nedra, for getting the things done to get us in good standing," she surmised.

The board also considered, and approved, the graduation date for the class of 2017. In keeping with a change made last year, commencement exercises will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 14.

In a somewhat related measure, the board also approved senior privileges which will allow them to leave campus for lunch for the remainder of the school year. The same privilege was allowed last year, with little consequence, and the change was made with administrator's blessings.

During her report, Powell noted the district enrollment as of Sept. 6, was 871 students. She also offered congratulations to the Lady Mohawk volleyball team for winning the Ozark Slam Fest at Harrison, and shared an update from EPM which indicated the district has saved about $100,000 in energy costs thanks to the monitoring system.

Late in the meeting the board also took a moment to recognize Benbrook for 10 years of service, as he chose not to seek re-election to a third term. In accepting the plaque he offered his fellow board members a few words of advice.

"I'm glad to have had the opportunity, and it's given me the chance to work with some very interesting individuals here at this table and otherwise," he offered. "But, I leave you with three pieces of advice. First, don't believe everything you hear. Second, don't sweat the small stuff. And, most of all remember that this is all about the students--the kids are everything."

With Benbrook excusing himself, the board then voted to enter into an executive session to consider employment matters. They remained in executive session for just over an hour, then re-convened and handled several items.

They first voted to accept the resignation of Shannon Richards as a cafeteria staff member at PHS and the resignation of Heather Tullos as the junior high cheerleader sponsor. Up next, they voted to employ all of the paraprofessionals at PES, including the parent center coordinator, for cafeteria duty at the campus. Likewise, several staff members were employed for cafeteria duty at PHS including Michael Harrell, Alan Rabjohn, Danny Baldwin, Jacob Johnson and Seth Medlin.

Mentors were also employed, which include Karen Coomer, Penny Toombs, Paul Seegraves, Jennifer McPherson, Stacy Peters and Erica Harris.

The board also voted to name Melissa Turner as the new Lady Mohawk softball coach, although they tabled consideration of an assistant coach. They also put officiating consideration of hiring an assistant baseball coach for Alan Rabjohn, choosing to table those.

All of the personnel matters passed on a vote of 4-0.

In other business the board--

--Voted to purchase the Amplify screening program at a cost of $9,491.80.

--Approved updates to the continuity plan.

--Accepted the low bid on purchase of eight projectors from "Zones" at a cost of $5,614.50.

--Approved resolutions to do business with companies related to employees. The businesses included Clay County A/C and John Ross Company.

--Gave their approval to the annual financial reports, along with the special education financial reports for the 2015-16 school year.

--Voted to have Bradley Dunlap represent the board on the ASBA Advisory Network.

According to district treasurer Sheila Mayberry, as of Monday the district's balance stood at $173,783, or about $10,000 higher than the same time last year.

During the meeting, the board also offered their thanks to the Piggott Community Alliance for putting on the recent Backpack Bash at the picnic grounds, and applauded the organizers for the effort.

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