School Boards Meet as Classes Reconvene

Thursday, August 17, 2017
Although the hallway is inviting, the walk to the first day of classes for kindergartners and first graders at Piggott Elementary School is always better when you have a strong hand to hold.
TD photo/Tim Blair

As classes resumed on Monday, Aug, 14, in Marmaduke, Rector and Piggott staff members resumed the effort to provide a good education to local students. Monday evening all three of the local school boards met, and handled a variety of issues.


At Monday’s monthly meeting, the Rector School Board approved several changes to the RHS Student Handbook which will be implemented for the 2017-18 school year. High school principal Nate Henderson presented the revisions to the faculty and students on Monday. Each student received a copy of the handbook along with a responsibility statement which must be signed and returned to the homeroom teacher within three school days.

Kindergarten students in Mandi Isom's class at Rector Elementary School quickly adapted to the new school year Monday, Aug. 14, as classes resumed, or in their case began.
TD photo/Jane Gatewood

The handbook is basically the same as last year’s handbook with these changes which went into effect on the first day of school, Aug. 14:

The school’s attendance policy as required by state law has been furnished for students and parents. This section contains current wording from the Arkansas Code Annotated which defines excused and unexcused absences and explains how an excessive number of unexcused absences can lead to loss of credit. In addition, should a student accumulate ten days or more of unexcused absences, the school can file a complaint with civil authority as outlined in A.C.A.(Arkansas Code 6-18-22).

The school’s exemption policy has been revised to include levels of academic performance along with attendance requirements to be considered for exemption from quarterly classroom exams.

The students’ possession of cell phones must not interfere with instructional time. Students may access their cell phones during lunch and between classes but not during any instructional block. Violations range from loss of the phone for the day to loss of cell-phone privilege, up to suspension. The school’s Acceptable Use Policy covers cell phone use while on campus. The school is not responsible for loss or theft of cell phones.

The seriousness of both plagiarism and cheating are explained in the academic dishonesty policy. Infractions can result in academic penalty up to a suspension.

The high school’s bell schedule is modified by two minutes to provide five minutes between classes. School will dismiss at 3:05 p.m.

Superintendent Johnny Fowler gave the financial statement showing a total balance of $2,224,677.13. He said the transfer of the funds from the operating budget to the building fund, which was approved by the board at the July meeting, will appear on next month’s financial statement.

In other action, the board approved the elementary school’s handbook, which remains unchanged from last year. The board’s Acceptable Use Policy contains no changes, nor do the policies regarding classified and certified personnel. The Arkansas School Board Association mandates yearly updates for school board policies. The board approved a five cent increase to the cost of adult breakfast and lunch, as required.

The board was advised that the system will continue to use the same internet content filter service (Cisco Web). In addition, the board advised the superintendent that a spring election cycle was their preference (May 22). The board approved Beverly Stone’s request to transfer to the position of custodian.

Both Anthony Dowdy, elementary principal, and Nate Henderson, high school principal, commended the students and teachers for a good first day of school, noting the majority of students seemed happy to return to a school routine and were glad to reconnect with their friends and teachers.


Members of the Piggott Schools Board of Education reviewed cost estimates for the elementary school roofing project at Monday night's regular gathering. The board also heard updates on other projects, set the annual public meeting date for Sept. 11, and approved the updated licensed and classified salary schedules. Following an hour-long executive session they agreed to hire an RN to serve both campuses.

With all members in attendance the meeting was called to order. During the review of finances several expenditures were questioned, but the report was accepted without dissent.

The board then turned their attention to the PES roofing project, hearing from Todd Welch with Brackett Krennerich Architects.

He presented a construction cost estimate/time frame, which had been compiled by his firm with the assistance of Jonesboro Roofing. The estimate called for nearly $58,000 in demolition fees to remove the existing roof along with $39,000 for masonry; $7,000 for new flashing where metal wall panels are used; $29,000 to adjust mechanical and plumbing penetrations of the roof; $13,500 for 34 new cast iron roof drains; $35,000 for steel decking and supports for abandoned roof top openings; $12,500 in trim and an additional $2,500 for other paint and touch-up work. According to Welch, the cost of the roof itself will run about $336,000.

“That is based on a quarter-inch slope , the state will not allow us to replace the roof with another flat one,” he explained. “We could go with an eighth-inch of fall and that would save you about $30,000 or so.”

Welch noted the new roof would require at least an eighth-inch of fall for each 12 linear feet, which is mandated by the Arkansas Public School Academic Facility Manual.

Added to the subtotal were other related costs, along with contingency funds, fees and costs of testing and permits. Welch offered a total project estimate of $678,998, but added there could be unforeseen costs which could not be identified until the work started.

“My hopes are that we have estimated high, and the bids will come in much lower,” he added. “I also hope we can get several bids, I'd like to see five or six companies bid on the job.”

Welch indicated the timeline for construction would be 90 days from the time the contract is signed, but noted there were other variables. “We can have the drawings in a couple of weeks, then we have to submit them to the state for approval,” he offered. “Then we could advertise for bids, and that would take at least two weeks.”

Board members voiced their concern with the delay in the project, which had been earmarked for the summer months.

Later in the meeting the board agreed to set the annual public meeting for 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11, in the Piggott High School Library. The meeting is held each year, and is mandated in order for the school to continue to receive specific funding. All patrons of the district are welcome, and encouraged, to attend.

The updated licensed and classified salary schedule was also approved on a vote of 5-0. The new schedule reflects the negotiated salaries for the administrators and the pay adjustment for Coach Michael Harrell as athletic director and Miles McCluskey as maintenance supervisor.

During his update to the board, interim superintendent Barry DeHart indicated a total of 848 students were on hand for the first day of classes.

“That was the number of kids that we actually had on the two campuses, I think the number will be going up,” he explained. “But, those were the kids that were there—411 in high school and 437 at elementary.”

DeHart indicated the census will continue each day for the coming week.

“Even though it was the first day, you still have some kids absent,” he added. “And, if they weren't physically present to be counted they weren't included.”

He reported the new band bleachers were delivered, and will be constructed in the coming days by the maintenance department. Afterward, an awning will be installed over the section of bleachers, which is located on the south endzone of Parker Field.

Harrell, also in attendance, noted the track surface will be installed in the coming two weeks and added the fence around the field is to be set this week. Work on the concession stand is also near complete, and the board applauded the construction crew for their effort.

“They've really gone above and beyond,” DeHart said of the project.

Installing air conditioning in the new concession stand was also discussed.

DeHart reported the security door locking system at the high school will be installed next week, and updated the board on the purchase of 250 new desks.

He also reported all of the students in the Piggott district have access to special glasses for viewing the solar eclipse on Monday, thanks to an NSLA grant secured by Sherry Taylor.

“There will be lessons tied to it, and we expect the kids to go out and view the eclipse around 1:10 to 1:30 during the peak,” he added.

DeHart also applauded the work of the new maintenance men, Bob Featherston and Matt Click, noting they both have been great assets to the district.

He concluded his update by reporting the community pep rally will be held at 6 p.m. this Friday, Aug. 18, in the new PHS gym.

The board then voted to enter into an executive session in order to discuss personnel matters. They re-convened about an hour later and voted to hire a new school nurse. Based on DeHart's recommendation they voted to hire Tammy Statler for six hours per week, at a rate of $15 per hour. The matter passed on a vote of 5-0.

Afterward, the board voted to adjourn.

In other business the board--

--Accepted the low bid for diesel fuel from Watson Oil at a cost of $1.83 a gallon.

--Set board training dates for Nov. 16 and 28.

--Approved renewal of the Dibels assessment program for PES at a cost of $5,215.

Present for the meeting were board members Hope Burns, Bradley Dunlap, Chris Roberts, Jennifer Rahn and Jim Threatt.


Members of the Marmaduke School Board held their regular meeting Monday night.

Superintendent Tim Gardner opened the meeting with discussion regarding the one-year leave of absence request for elementary teacher and bus driver Kenneth Hargrave. Gardner stated he had two letters to read regarding this leave of absence, and the board voted to enter into executive session. After the executive session, members of the board unanimously voted to approve Hargrave's leave of absence.

Gardner then mentioned, since this left a full-time bus driver position open, the board would need to approve a new driver. He recommended the board approve Mark Clarke to move from a part-time to full-time bus driver position. The board agreed and voted to accept the suggestion. They also unanimously approved David Vanhorn to take over Clarke's part-time bus driver position, noting they did not need a replacement for an elementary teacher at this time.

The board also approved two new policies in the student handbook. The first policy concerns when a student may check out of school for the day. Before, if a student has a job and meets all of the necessary criteria, they could only check out about 50 minutes early. Now, they may check out earlier, as early as 12:05 p.m., if they have met all the criteria and have gained approval.

The second policy concerned the 504 plan, regarding students with disability accommodations. One thing they are allowed are additional absences, but school officials felt the handbook was a bit vague on this. The handbook has now been updated to note that a student with a disability will need to obtain a physician's note every two weeks in order to be excused from their classes.

Superintendent Gardner opened the floor for discussion regarding the resolution for notice of school election and polling sites. He explained that the dates for voting were as follows: early voting, Sept. 12 to 15, Sept. 18, and the election on Sept. 19. Polling sites for the election will be at the courthouse, as Stacey Speer is running unopposed. The board agreed without dissent.

Also, Gardner informed the board an increase in adult lunches and breakfasts was mandated by the government. Lunch costs had been $3.50, and was raised a nickel, with the new price being $3.55. The breakfast price increased from $2 to $2.10. The board unanimously approved this change.

Furthermore, the board also voted to unanimously accept a legal transfer of a fifth grade student from Paragould into the district. Board members also approved a pay rate for their part-time technology assistant, transfered money from building fund to operating fund due to costs from the previous year, the minutes from the previous meeting, financial reports and, bills. They also discussed the financial overview for the 2016-17 school year.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Superintendent Tim Gardner presented Stacey Speer with a plaque, marking 15 years on the Marmaduke School Board.

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