Area School Boards Address Personnel Issues

Thursday, May 17, 2018

End of year personnel issues dominated regional school board meetings for the month of May.

Piggott Board

By Kelsey McKeeney

The Piggott School Board met for their regular meeting May 14, with the gathering held in the Piggott Elementary School Library.

During the meeting, fifth grade elementary teacher Sherri Wright and sixth grade elementary teacher Amber Murray proposed the purchase of a new math curriculum for grades K-12. They indicated the current curriculum, which they have been using for the past four years, makes it difficult to teach the students, as they essentially learn a new skill everyday but do not revisit skills they have already learned until the middle or end of the school year for testing. After a lot of research, the curriculum the two teachers propose is Saxon from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They noted the program is easy to understand, would allow parents to easily help their children with problems, tells the lesson number next to each problem so the student can easily reference the information they need and it consistently revisits information they have already learned so they can build a firm foundation of knowledge and continue learning new skills. This curriculum would have a six year digital contract. The board unanimously approved of the purchase of the new curriculum, so that the teachers would be able to receive the books and begin familiarizing themselves with it before school starts this fall.

Also, the board discussed the purchase of Promethean Active Panels. These panels have two mobile stands so they may be easily moved, only have two cords going from the panels to the computer so no other wiring is necessary, has a five year warranty, are about 75 inches and have the capability of touch on the screens. They would also allow around four to five different students to use the touch capability at the same time, whereas the smart boards only allow for one at a time. The board briefly discussed the purchase, then unanimously approved to purchase nine of them from the lowest bid, CBWG, for $39,996.

Furthermore, Head Football Coach Michael Harrell was scheduled to attend the board meeting, but was unable to do so as he was at a graduation, so he could not address the board about the football field. Superintendent Barry DeHart had spoken with him, and Harrell explained that in the crown of the field, the grass is dead, and continued maintenance would also require a new sprig machine. Harrell has looked into the problem and it's estimated the job will cost around $3,000. One board member suggested getting a soil sample before doing any work, to assure the issue is not underground. This matter was tabled until DeHart is able to talk to Harrell and obtain more definite numbers and facts.

After an executive session of almost two and a half hours, the board reassembled. Upon DeHart's recommendation, the board unanimously approved the resignation of volleyball coach Codie Lancaster. contingent on her being hired to the same position at Wynne. A resignation from PES paraprofessional Paula Richardson was also accepted, as well as the retirement of food service worker Vikki Gibson and PE teacher Cathy Norred. They also approved the hire of Shawn Hearn as the assistant baseball coach and named Chris Brantley as the head boys basketball coach and teacher. For elementary teachers, the board approved the hiring of Laura Andrews, Hayley Baker and re-hired Hope Ermert. They also unanimously approved to have Penny Toombs and Laura Brantley teach a nine day ACT class this summer for the Piggott students and hired Jo Adams to execute the summer feeding program. Finally, the board unanimously agreed to pay the stipend for AP teachers for the 2017-18 school year.

In addition, the board approved the reading of the previous regular meeting and the previous special meeting, the financial reports, the VI-B budget, a contract with Donn Mixon for $300 per month for the 2018-19 school year and 12 school choice applications.

Superintendent DeHart updated the board on several matters. He mentioned Gosnell school applied for and received extra recess time from a new program, and that Piggott would watch the progress of that to see if it is something they would like to try in the future. The program is being used in a limited number of schools, and they are allowing the extra time to see how it affects the children. Also, DeHart mentioned Gordon Pike and his men have been hard at work on the parking lot and noted he has spoken with the owner of the lot and house located between the two. He indicated the current owners, Matt and Carlyne Sutfin, are asking $22,000 for the lot and house. DeHart also reported both Piggott High School and Piggott Elementary School now enjoy fully accredited status. Finally, he indicated he had received a call regarding a missing handicap sign and is having it replaced.

Rector Board

By Jane Gatewood

During the regular meeting held Monday, May 15, after consideration of a number of routine agenda items, the Rector School Board adjourned into executive session to entertain options regarding personnel for 2018-19 school year. After a lengthy session, the board was called back into regular session where they assigned several certified teachers to new positions within the Rector School District.

Christin Holmes resigned her first-grade position and was hired as high school counselor to take Brittany Clark’s position. Clark’s resignation was accepted by the board. Pamela Sain-Mills was hired as elementary counselor to replace Julia Wyss who is retiring at the end of the school year. With the resignation of Melinda VanAalsburg as music teacher, the board hired Amber Bucy who resigned her Kindergarten position. Bridgette Sain will be assigned as a kindergarten teacher from pre-school director, the position that Bethany Burns will hold. Burns resigned her sixth-grade teaching position. Dawn Sims resigned her position as ALE teacher and that position will be filled by Jill Wynn Vangilder. The board accepted the recommendations of the superintendent on each of the positions and accepted the resignations and the new assignments unanimously. Several other positions were vacated and those positions will be filled in the summer months.

In addition to reassigning several certified teachers, Superintendent Johnny Fowler recommended pay raises for certified staff by adding $500 to the annual salary steps. Two additional steps were added also to the salary schedule for certified staff. Classified staff were recommended to receive a $300 annual salary increase and two steps were added to the classified salary schedule. Bus drivers would receive a one-time annual raise of $300 for 2018-19. The board accepted the recommendation of the superintendent and approved the raises.

Earlier on the agenda, the board routinely accepted the minutes of the regular April 9, meeting, and approved the April 11, special session minutes where the board formally accepted the resignation of Daniel VanAalsburg and Melinda VanAalsburg. At the time, the board accepted the recommendation of the superintendent to hire Kyle Kemph as band teacher.

RHS Principal Nate Henderson reported operations at the high school are going well and the reports from both students and parents regarding the new band director Kyle Kemph have been overwhelmingly positive. The parents said, according to Henderson, they knew Kemph did not have to meet the parents and students this spring but chose to do so. Kemph has begun getting the music to the students for the fall marching show.

Henderson also reported Jacob Holmes won the district and regional math/geometry competition and was ranked fourth in the state in the overall competition in geometry. In addition, the FBLA group made a good showing during spring competitions. Henderson mentioned that both the softball and baseball seasons had ended with good showings. He was especially pleased with how the softball team represented the school and the town when competing in the state tournament in Mountain Home. “Graduation went very well,” he concluded to which President Jody Simmons commented, “I’ve heard many good comments about graduation.”

RES Principal Anthony Dowdy commented on how field trips and activities are in full swing with concluding activities at the elementary school being scheduled. Many upcoming honors and promotion programs will be held, also. He concluded his remarks saying how much the teachers appreciated the Teacher Appreciation Week goodies.

Applications for school choice were all approved.

The bids for school insurance for students were reviewed and the board approved the HSR, Inc. policy provisions. Health Special Risk, Inc. is the company currently providing school student insurance to be made available to all students.

The VI-B budget, a preliminary look at funds for the upcoming year, was approved.

In the Superintendent’s financial report, Fowler stated the total operating funds, including lunchroom and federal funds, to be $2,903,414.72.

Marmaduke Board

By Kelsey McKenney

Marmaduke School Board met for their monthly meeting May 14, and handled several matters.

The board discussed spending NSL matching grant money on a preschool playground resurfacing project. They decided this was somethingwhich needed to be done, and unanimously approved to use the grant money for the project.

In addition to this, the board unanimously agreed to accept the resignations of Lisa Hargrave and Kenneth Hargrave from full-time to half-time bus routes. They also accepted the retirement of Lesa Taylor, as well as the resignation of Kyle Gardner from his position as high school baseball coach and Jeff Boswell from custodian and bus driver. The board unanimously approved the hire of Lenny Hurst as a special education teacher, Allison West as a GT teacher, Tom Rice as a custodian and bus driver and Melissa Vinson as a contracted employee for the pre-school baby room.

Furthermore, the board unanimously approved of a $750 end-of-the-year bonus to be given to all contracted employees and time sheet workers who average 30 hours or more per week.

Also unanimously accepted were 27 school choice applications, the 2016-17 school year audit, handbook dress code changes for the 2018-19 school year and the proposed 6B budget for the 2018-19 school year.

The board also discussed and agreed on the notice of polling sites for the May election, and a new three-year agreement with Beardsley Public Finance.

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