Piggott School Board Talks Construction

Thursday, January 12, 2017
The current members of the Piggott Schools Board of Education are, from left: Front-Jim Threatt and Jennifer Rahn. Back-Chris Roberts, Bradley Dunlap and Hope Burns.(courtesy photo)

Discussion concerning construction efforts dominated Monday night's meeting of the Piggott School Board. During the regular monthly gathering the board was updated on the work currently underway at the football field and efforts to improve drainage around both campuses. Board members were also informed the district has been approved for a FEMA grant, with the funds to be used to pay for the portion of the construction costs for a new saferoom. Late in the meeting, following what proved to be a marathon executive session, the board members voted 4-1 against extending the contract of Superintendent Charlie Powell for another year.

With all members in attendance, along with key administrators, the meeting was called to order. Up first under old business were the state representatives from FEMA, with word on the grant application.

"We will only have three projects funded this year, but luckily yours is one of them," noted Kyle Key with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. "The grant will pay for up to $600,000 toward the construction costs of a saferoom based on a 75-25 percent matching funds."

Key, who was accompanied by his supervisor, Lacye Blake, fielded questions from the board on the effort, and outlined the particulars of the grant program.

"There are specific rules for the use of the room, primarily about installing permenant fixtures which would take up floor space and such," he added.

The consensus among the board members was to utilize the opportunity to build the saferoom at the high school, in hopes it would also serve as the new band room. The possibilities of building two facilities was also visited, with the state officials noting seperate applications would likely be required.

According to Key, if approved the grant funds would be available later in the year, and the local district would have three years from that date to complete the project.

According to the grant particulars, saferooms must have five square feet per person, and Key noted average construction prices for earlier projects ran between $200 and $250 per person.

Powell indicated the board would be required to have plans drawn-up by an architect with the involvement of an engineer, and would be forced to seek state approval.

Also on hand was Clay County OEM Coordinator Alan Vaughn, who works with ADEM on a regular basis. He explained the fact that ADEM is responsible for the grant procedure, although the funds are being provided by FEMA on the federal level.

Fred Malicoat, of Malicoat-Winslow Engineers, was on hand to update the board on two projects in the works.

He first updated board members on a study recently conducted to identify flood-prone areas on the two campuses, and address those issues. Malicoat provided blueprints of both the PES and PHS locations, and outlined the needed changes.

"At the elementary school we'll be tying-in those three drains in front of the building, which don't really carry the water away, and route those out to the highway," he offered. "Drains will also be added in the playground area behind the school building, and that run-off will be carried south into the existing ditches."

The area between the administration building and the high school also has flooding problems, and Malicoat suggested elevating much of the area and adding a drain. The area between the sidewalk and building along the west side of the new gym was also addressed, and will be dealt with under the plan as well.

"The total cost of the project is estimated at around $350,000, with about $160,000 of that for materials such as the boxes and pipes," he concluded. "The work would need to be done during the summer months, though."

Malicoat also updated the board on the plans to build a new concession stand and restroom facility at Parker Field, as the renovation project continues for the PHS football field.

"The next step will be to hire a consultant, engineer and architect for the project," he offered.

Malicoat then offered an overview of the proposed facility, noting the number of restroom stalls is determined by seating.

"I counted both sides and you have a total of 1,120 seats at the football field. The health code requires one restroom stall for each 75 males and one for each 40 females, so we'll use the total number to determine the size of the restroom facility," he added.

He sought input from the board on the particulars of the interior of the concession stand, and noted he would provide more detailed drawings at the next meeting, which must be submitted to the state for approval.

In a related note, Kevin Rone, with Turf Renovations, offered an update on the track project.

"I got quotes on the 1,600 feet of fencing for around the field, and to replace it with the ornamental fence you had before would be cost prohibitive," he explained. "I secured bids on industrial strength fencing, with the four gates, and it's available either as galvanized or black."

Rone noted the cost for the project would be $38,000 for the galvanized fence, while the black carried with it a price tag of $48,000.

He also reported the company secured to pave the track is set to begin as soon as the weather cooperates, and noted it could be as early as next week.

Due to the price of the project coming in over estimates, Powell indicated the process of bidding would likely come into play, and the issue was tabled for the time being.

Board members also heard an update from Food Services Director Sherry Boyster on the two cafeterias, and their operations. When asked how it was going since the district resumed responsibility for food services she noted, "it's been a struggle, but things are beginning to get better."

She noted the availability of commodity foods from the USDA has helped the bottom-line, but noted bad debt is still a major issue. She reported a large deficit for the current school year, and provided a print out of those who owe bills, including some staff members.

"We've sent out letters to those who owe a lot, and we've even included an application for free-or-reduced lunches," she offered. "I guess the next step is to start calling them."

She also indicated the cafeterias have been able to reduce waste in the past year, and noted they were contiuing to try new offerings and options.

Boyster said the staff continues to look for ways to involve the students, and discussed a poster contest. She also requested that Powell look into having the cafeterias painted, noting "it would be nice to have some pictures painted on the walls, something that would make it a little more appealing to the kids."

Board members also heard update from both campus principals on school improvement efforts and closing the achievement gap.

PES Principal Anthony Dowdy first addressed the board, outlining the efforts at the elementary campus. "I'm giving each of you a sample of a data card, with have set up a data wall at the elementary school for all students in grades kindergarten through sixth," he explained. "They're monitored throughout the year, using last year's ACT-Aspire grade as a guidline."

He noted the process allows the teachers to identify weak areas, and address those through remediation.

PHS Principal Barry DeHart noted a similar program is in place at the high school, with the ACT-Aspire as a starting point.

"We take last year's grade, and then we have three assessment tests before they take it again," he explained. "All students are evaluated by subject, allowing us to identify weak areas for both the group and individual students."

DeHart noted reading continues to be a problem for most groups, although seventh and eighth graders are required to take a class. Writing and organizational skills have also proved to be areas needing assistance, although it is a problem which is being seen statewide.

Prior to entering into the executive session the board also approved the purchase of additional Chromebooks and carts for both campuses. The first purchase authorized was for the acquisition of two carts and 60 Chromebooks, with the funds coming from the "High Gains Funds" awarded the elementary school for high test scores. This purchase was in the amount of $21,164.43.

The board also approved the purchase of 90 additional Chromebooks and three carts with NASL funds for a total of $31,746.65.

Both purchases were made from GovConnection, and were approved without dissent.

During her report to the board, Powell indicated the student census as of Jan. 4, was 874 students, up from the previous count of 860. She also provided an update on efforts to try to start a vocational technical school on the local campus, indicating she had been informed any partnerships with TRCC or SEMO were not possible.

"We can't partner with any of the schools in Missouri, so we're back to talking with BRTC and such," she added. "We've set up a committee that is looking into the possibility, and I'd like for them to visit some other locations that have done similar programs--one of the best is in Siloam Springs."

Discussion of the vo-tech effort led Board President Hope Burns to request a review of the projects currently underway, and an accounting of funds.

With around $3 million in funds available from the bond issue, and construction fund, the district is still facing several big expenditures. Included are around $325,000 for the track, the $48,000 for fencing, around $300,000 for the PES roof, an additional $30,000 for roofing at the high school, the $350,000 for the drainage effort, some $70,000 to renovate the high school library and another $400,000 to augment the funding for the saferoom. Powell also indicated new welding booths, and a ventilation system are needed for the agri shop.

Another item not on the list, but needing consideration in the future, are the aged HVAC units in the PHS middle gym.

After reviewing the figures the board voted to go into executive session to consider personnel matters. A short time later Powell exited the gathering, and was called back into the meeting room about an hour later. After a two-hour-plus executive session the board re-convened.

With only one matter to be considered, the board then addressed whether to extend Powell's contract for an additional year, which would keep her employed through the 2018-19 school year.

Board member Jim Threatt offered the motion to extend the contract. But, Threatt apparently was the only member who favored the extension when it was put to a vote, as it failed 1-4. Last year the board also failed to extend Powell's contract during their January meeting, although they relented later in the spring and added another year.

The board then voted to adjourn, although they may gather to address some of the construction matters prior to their regular February meeting.

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