School Boards Handle Variety of Items

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Local school boards handled a variety of subjects at their regular meetings. The Piggott board spent time discussing the football field project, Rector received word the sale of the armory has been finalized and Marmaduke board members presented their annual report to patrons.

Piggott

Members of the Piggott School Board brainstormed ideas for improvement at Parker Field during their meeting Monday.

At the heart of the discussion were new bleachers, concession stand ideas and restrooms at the Piggott High School football stadium. Architect Todd Welch of Brackett Krennerich Architects was on hand to answer questions and offer advice. He told the board a proper first step would be to establish a seating capacity for the facility.

After lengthy discussion, the board opted to move forward and design a stadium with bleacher seating for 1,500 people, a figure which includes a separate seating area of 100 seats for the band. The new bleachers will extend 50 yards, from one 25-yard line of the football field to the other 25-yard line. The board also authorized Brackett Krennerich to design a concession stand with bathrooms connected at the back of the structure to avoid congestion in that area of the stadium.

The stadium currently seats 1,000 with bleachers stretching from one 35-yard line to the other 35-yard line. The upgrades were estimated to cost roughly $1 million and be paid through existing bond funds.

Also discussed was adding monitors to the concession stand so workers could watch the games while working inside the building. That idea will be mulled by administration and staff to determine practicality.

The consensus came following several other ideas that included moving the existing bleachers to the visitors side of the field, a move that would require capping the ditch on that side of the field. The board also discussed placing bleachers nearly the entire length of the field, from one 5-yard line to the other, but the consensus was that would create too large a stadium for a town the size of Piggott.

The board also discussed creating a band shell for the band designed to maximize acoustics and allow sound from the area to reach further out into the stadium. And the board acknowledged input from boosters and concession workers would be needed prior to finalizing the interior design of the concession stand.

Welch accepted the plan and is to report back to the board with designs at a future meeting. Prior to use of a new design of the stadium, the project must be approved by the fire marshal and the state.

Also within the stadium, the board heard an update from superintendent Charlie Powell on renovation of the track surrounding the football field. Powell said the school is waiting on asphalt and work should begin in November. She added the track is expected to be complete in time for use during the spring track and field season.

The board also discussed the purchase of land near the school facility from a nearby church. Powell told the board a lot and a half could be purchased for $10,000 while extending the amount of property purchased could add another $15,000 to the cost. Board members discussed waiting until the end of the year to gauge the district's financial status and voted to table the issue until April.

Fred Malicott was given a nod by the board to begin work on replacing the HVAC unit in the district's central office. Powell vouched for Malicott by saying, "he doesn't spend money to spend money." The board granted Powell permission to pay Malicott $2,450 for design work of the project. It was noted that actual placement of the new system could cost around $35,000.

The HVAC project also is to be paid through bond money. The board also heard of other projects earmarked for payment from the bonds. Those included repairing roofs - Powell said shingles on the high school roof are not holding - a ventilation system in the Agri building, paving and restriping parking lots, fixing flooring problems at the high school and upgrading the band room. Powell told the board the district is applying for a FEMA grant for the band room as it will be used as a safety area.

Powell told the board just less than $3 million remain of the bond funds.

The board also adopted a resolution to do business with TNT Signs in the future. The company is owned by family members of board member Chris Roberts. In a related move, the entire board was reminded to fill out disclosure forms to be sent to the state for approval prior in keeping with state law.

Powell also updated the board on the e-rate discounts for technological infrastructure within the school. The board approved a plan for upgrades in March and $45,249.53 has been appropriated for use by the district. The district's share of that cost, 20 percent, is $9,049.91. Powell said some of the items included in the original plan are no longer available. Network Solutions is working with the school to implement the upgrades of wi-fi, router and network systems.

Also in Powell's report to the board was discussion of cleaning out the armory. Powell sought permission to remove old unused items and take them to a recycling facility. She noted that some of the items still in storage include an outdated stage, old computer parts, a desk, a waxing machine and old filing cabinets.

Powell told the board attendance within the district was at 870 on Oct. 5, up four students from the 866 in attendance on Aug. 19, but down from last year's average. She also reminded board members parent/teacher conferences are scheduled for Oct. 18, and Oct. 20, and noted the district has spent $55,382 on food for the cafeteria since August.

The board also heard a suggestion for a scholarship created by a recommended fundraiser which would involve local law enforcement competing against school staff in a basketball game. It was suggested proceeds from such an event could be used to create the scholarship for a Piggott student entering college to pursue a degree in emergency service, firefighting or the justice system.

The board also reorganized via secret ballot, electing Hope Burns as board president, Bradley Dunlap as vice president and Roberts as secretary. Other board members include Jennifer Rahn and Jimmy Threatt.

Following an hour-long closed session, the board accepted the resignation of senior cheer sponsor Connie Vaughn. Vaughn is an unpaid volunteer and her resignation is effective at the end of the current school year.

Also after the closed session, the board approved appointing Billy Joe Seal as volunteer assistant baseball coach and Alan Vaughn as volunteer assistant softball coach for the coming spring. This move was made as opposed to hiring assistant coaches, or assigning current coaches to the positions.

Rector

Purchase of the armory was officially authorized by the Rector school board on Monday and the district and city were to meet Wednesday to make the pact official and transfer the property from the city to the school.

The Rector school board authorized superintendent Johnny Fowler to sign the agreement, which sends the armory to the school district in exchange for a $10,000 payment to the city.

The city council had officially authorized mayor Teresa Roofe to sign the agreement at a recent meeting.

The city and school district had agreed to the exchange - which also includes roughly two acres of land - in September, but had to wait for survey work to be completed before making the deal official.

Fowler has said the district wants to use the new space for athletic teams and other clubs as an indoor facility for training. He added that the city will be welcome to use the facility for its sponsored sports.

Fowler also attended a city council meeting in June and said the armory may also be used for other programs within the district. He said the FFA, art club and science club all have events that could be held in the building. He added that the multi-purpose building at the elementary school is booked, leaving teams and clubs to look for alternative places to hold practices and events.

Also at Monday's school board meeting, the annual report to the public was announced with no members of the community in attendance for the hearing. The report indicated standardized test scores were down, but Fowler said it is not a concern due to the inconsistency in test format over the last three years, when three different methods were used to perform the tests.

Students are increasingly being required to use computers for the tests, Fowler said, and once consistency is established in the testing format, Rector students should log higher scores.

Fowler reported an improvement plan to aid students in the transitions and said using the same format for a second year in a row will help. "I think this year we'll see improvement," he said.

The school board learned enrollment at Rector is down roughly 20 students from the first day of school in August and currently stands at 584 students. Fowler said the current figure is in line with enrollment the last day of the 2015-16 school year.

"It's not a big concern," he said. "But we will continue to monitor it."

Marmaduke

The Marmaduke school board held its annual report to the public Monday, with nine members of the community attending.

Standardized test results were announced, with the school district meeting expectations in literacy and assigned a "needs improvement" identifier for math. Superintendent Tim Gardner said he is satisfied with the results as they are in line with other area schools, but the district has implemented a plan to raise the scores.

"We're out there with almost everybody else," he said.

The district's principals told attendees of the public hearing how the schools are working to help students achieve higher scores. Among the new initiatives are additional computer carts, software programs designed to aid improved education and professional development by the district's staff and administration.

Gardner reported that the district is in good shape with its budget, but added "there are a lot of variables" that could alter the finances throughout the school year. He said he is prepared to deal with those changes should they arrive. "We're in good shape with it," he said of the budget.

The district is down about 15 students as of this week compared to the number of students reporting for the first day of school in August, Gardner said. The current enrollment is 735 as of Tuesday this week.

Gardner said he is not concerned about the reduced number of students as the overall perspective remains positive. "We have had years where we have fluctuated 50 or 60 kids," he said, "so 15 is not bad."

The enrollment will increase soon as the school board on Monday approved legal transfers into the district from Greene County Tech and Paragould.

In other action at Monday's board meeting, the board approved the purchase of a used maintenance truck. The board also authorized the advertising of bids for a 2004 school bus and a 1996 Ford Ranger.

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