Local School Boards Meet

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Comments by the district’s principals were the highlight of Monday’s monthly meeting of the Rector School Board.

New principal of Rector High School, Nate Henderson, is no stranger to school personnel and the community. “I’ve been having conversations with the high school teachers, counselor, and secretary, gaining a perspective for next year,” Henderson said. “I’m looking ahead to the time when the teachers will return to the building and we can get ready for the students.”

Anthony Dowdy, newly-appointed principal for Rector Elementary School, is well-known in the community as his family, too, lives in Rector. “First I’d like to express my appreciation to the board for the opportunity to work here,” Dowdy said. “I’ve officially been on board since July 5 and have been looking forward to starting the school year. It’s been great meeting with the teachers who have been dropping by to talk.”

In regular business, the board approved the bids for milk and bread cafeteria supplies, awarding them to Prairie Farms and Harps. As required by the Child Nutrition Unit of Food Services with Arkansas State Board of Education, the board approved a 10-cent increase in lunch prices, rising to $2.30 for each student. The district chooses the lowest amount to charge and still comply with the regulation.

Standard resolutions required to operate day-to-day business of the school district were approved by the board. These resolutions allowed for use of a signature stamp for select board members and the superintendent, appointing co-custodians of the activity funds and the lunchroom funds, and declaring superintendent Johnny Fowler as ex-officio officer of the school district, allowing him to make day-to-day operating decisions with school board prior approval.

Fowler recommended that a resolution be given to the county election commission declaring no need for opening polls for Tony Lockhart’s position on the school board. He is running for re-election unopposed. All approved.

Fowler presented to the board a request for student transfer from Rector schools to Paragould schools. The students had lived and attended school in Marmaduke but now reside in Rector. The family missed the School Choice application deadline of May 1. The board agreed to deny the request for transfer. “To approve such a request would set an inadvisable precedent,” Fowler noted in giving the board his recommendation.

Lockhart asked for Rector’s closing enrollment. Henderson confirmed the enrollment at 583 students.

In further business, the board acted to reassign new teacher Mitchell Weber to the health and physical education position at the high school in addition to assuming the duties of head girls basketball coach. The social studies position he had originally held became vacant and the board approved Christopher Richardson to teach civics, economics and American history in addition to taking the duties of assistant girls basketball coach.

The final action of the board was to receive a bid from CCB Energy Consultants to replace light fixtures and lighting at the Rector football field. Fowler noted the need for such but recommended receiving three bids since the amount for this endeavor could reach $20,000. Since time was a factor, the board voted to give Fowler the authority to select the bid and go forward with the lighting contract with a cost not to exceed $30,000, which would be paid out of the general fund.

In earlier action, the board voted to move $519,000 of the general operating balance to the building fund. This amount was the difference in the beginning and ending balance within the fiscal year ending June 30. Fowler also reported the general fund balance to be $1,754,479.01 and total assets at $2,449,114.92 with cafeteria funds and federal monies being included in the final total.

Marmaduke Board

Marmaduke School Board met in regular session Monday evening and discussed several important subjects, including changes in policy and to the student handbook.

Assistant Superintendent Keith Richey presented several changes in policies, mostly due to legislations, to be discussed. In addition to the regular policy changes, the board discussed the License Personnel Evaluation. Previously, educators were considered novice teachers for one year, but this has changed to three years. Additionally, beginning in 2021-2022, teachers will be required to take and pass a scientific reading test.

The next matter Richey introduced concerned volunteering. He noted there is a recommended Act that will permit school board members, or their spouses, to volunteer if the board unanimously approves it. This would allow members, or their spouses, to volunteer at school activities, including sporting events.

The changes were unanimously approved by the board.

Finally, Superintendent Tim Gardner raised the board's awareness of a change in the school board election. Beginning with the next cycle, the date for election will be changed, with the choice to hold it in May or November in conjunction with the primary or general election. Board members then deliberated over the two possibilities, weighing the pros and cons of each. Superintendent Gardner recommended they hold the election in May, as November seemed to contain more disadvantages, both to the board and the patrons. He also informed the board a decision does not have to be made until their January meeting. The board then decided to table the matter for the time being, as they'll contemplate their options closer to the January meeting.

Student handbook changes were also a topic of discussion, outlined by assistant superintendent Richey. He indicated the goal of these changes was, primarily, to make the handbook clearer for the students, teachers and faculty.

One of the highlights of conversation involved fundraising. A policy was suggested in which organizations scheduled one week to vend the products they were selling. The plan was formulated to prevent organizations from monopolizing other organizations, or two organizations trying to sell products at the same time. “It gives everyone an equal opportunity to sell their products without having to compete with another organization,” Gardner said of the matter during the discussion.

Another topic of conversation involved unexcused absences. Before, if students missed one day without a professional note, it was considered an unexcused absence and the student received a zero for the schoolwork that day. However, this has been changed. Now, a student's schoolwork is considered a zero after they have acquired four unexcused absences.

Other issues of student handbook changes mostly included already stated rules and policies being worded clearer and more concise.

The board accepted all student handbook changes.

The members of the board also discussed adding a $22 daily rate for daycare, noting this would allow parents a relief from the weekly rate if they only needed daycare for a few days of the week. It also would help those in charge of and scheduling daycare. “They will need to choose days of the week, and that will help us prepare better,” Gardner explained.

The new rate was approved unanimously.

During the gathering the board also approved the financial report and bills, the milk bid, bread bid, bid for student insurance, stipend for the junior high basketball coaches retroactive to the 2016-2017 school year, a student lunch cost increase of five cents and the transfer of a student from Greene County Tech.

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