School Boards Prepare for Coming Year at Meeting

Thursday, June 14, 2018
Despite the recent hot weather, work continues on the Piggott Elementary School roofing project. After months of delays, the job was approved by the state earlier this year and the job bid. The project calls for a new roof for the entire campus, hopefully eliminating leaks and other problems associated with the aging flat roof.
TD photo/Tim Blair

Members of the Piggott School Board met for their regular business meeting on Thursday, June 7, at the administration building.

During the gathering, elementary principal Brock Swann introduced the PES student handbook changes for the 2018-2019 school year.

In a change noted on page 30, a student will now be allowed six absences, and a conference will no longer be required at the point they have eight absences. On the following page it will now read “after 10 tardies, early checkouts, or a combination thereof in a semester.” with the paragraph beginning “Following an absence,” taken out. Under the change, excused absences will now include illnesses with a doctors note, with the rest of the paragraph being deleted, along with the deletion of number six on the list. This stipulated that a student could not participate in any athletic event, or other activity, after school hours if they were absent due to illness, or checked-out early due to illness. The section on unexcused absences, found on page 32, is also being deleted.

Changes were also made on page 33, the pass-fail section, which will now read that students will not be promoted “without a conference” unless they maintain a “75 percent” average. This will now affect grades kindergarten through sixth as students maintaining an F in math and language will now be retained.

A change was also made on page 35, it was noted report cards will be given to students only after the second grading period, doing away with the one for the fourth period. It was also adjusted to indicate after five days in charges in the cafeteria, students will be permitted to eat but the amount will still be considered excessive.

The policy on students riding in school vehicles on various trips was adjusted, stipulating the students should ride both ways unless permission is gained and a written note presented.

In a change on page 38, the sentence beginning “Consequences for inappropriate use of phones will now end with “and smart watches.” The section which prohibited sales, or deliveries, of items on campus was also deleted. Otherwise, minor grammatical changes were made.

The board discussed and reviewed the changes, and unanimously approved them.

High school principal Paul Seegraves presented his updates to the high school student handbook for the 2018-2019 school year. He noted the first change will be to add the alma mater and pledge of allegiance to the beginning of the handbook. On page four, school board member's positions will be updated. On page five, the AIP information will be removed. The Act 930 of 2017 Student Success Plan will be added. This is a personalized education plan intended to assist students with achieving readiness for college, career and community engagement.

Seegraves indicated each eighth grade student shall have a Student Success Plan in place that is developed by school personnel in collaboration with parent or student. The plan must be updated annually thereafter.

On page 19-20, the header will be changed to “Lice/Nits,” and on page 21, school reach call will be changed to “Call and/or Notification on Website App.” On page 24, school lunch prices will be updated; on page 28, “Retention for failure to participate in Academic Improvement Plan” will be removed. On page 29, a seventh rule will be added stating “Students will not have food or drink in the classrooms without prior approval from the principal.” On page 30, the “minimum of five days up to” will be taken out, and simply read “10 days.” On page 31, “detention” will be added to the consequences of a second offense and “closed campus” will now read, “skipping classes.” On page 32, “Hats” will be changed to “Hats/Hoods.” Rule E will now read “All jean shorts.” On page 33, on rule five, “Cameras in the hallways and classrooms will be used in investigating the situation” will be added. Rule six will add “Tampering of the magnetic doors will result in the following disciplinary actions: first-warning, second-one day ISS, third-three days of ISS, fourth-five days of OSS.

On page 34, rule 11 will be changed to “during breakfast and lunch break,” and will add “Cell phones used during statewide testing will result in the harsher disciplinary actions.” On page 34, the additions will consist of a dress code for graduation, policy on speeches, no decorating of caps, and cords policy. On page 35, lunch will be required to be brought to the office unless approved to be brought to the cafeteria, old gym or the band room. On page 37, addition of permission notes for extenuating circumstances that keep a parent from checking out their students. On page 38, the addition of “students must be in school four periods to participate in the evening extracurricular activities,” and deletion of the fourth paragraph concerning Saturday activities. On page 41, tardy consequence fourth and fifth will be switched. On page 42, an exemption policy will be added regarding students turning in textbooks in order to be exempt. On page 43, it will now read “All students driving to school must have a valid driver's license and purchase a parking permit tag.” Parking places will be numbered, with students being assigned a number determined by class or honor roll status. Disciplinary action will be changed to “first-warning, second-one day ISS, third- two day OSS and fourth-three days OSS.”

The changes also specity senior football players will be allowed to park at the old gym, and senior band members will be allowed to park at the middle gym. On page 44, the Smart Core Curriculum will be moved to this page. On page 45, all of the current page except for changing Honor Graduates in the first paragraph will say completed Smart Core Curriculum instead of listing all courses. Rule 4 will add that valedictorians and salutatorians will be recognized until 2021, then top honor students will be recognized only. Other additions include: lunch time stay in the cafeteria is limited unless prior approval from the principal; activity period-limited time to stay in the classroom unless in a meeting or prior approval from the principal; AMI days and AMI work not completed will result in absences counted in the class, students have five days to complete the work; the possibility of adding Summa Cum Laude (4.0 and up), Magna Cum Laude (3.7-3.99), and Cum Laude (3.5-3.69) for honor graduations.

Also addressed was an academic dishonesty policy (cheating/allowing others to cheat/plagiarism). The first offense earns the student a “O” and warning; second will be a “O” along with three days of ISS and the third offense would warrant five days of ISS. Additionally, ISS (In School Suspension) guidelines will be added. Seegraves believes a better detailed outline and guideline of ISS will aid both students and parents in better understanding the policy. He noted it will outline the purpose, offenses, program description, referral process, number of referrals, and provide a list of guidelines.

Cafeteria director Catherine Wright, joined by interim Superintendent Barry DeHart, addressed the board regarding ways they plan to improve both high school and elementary school cafeterias/lunches. Wright explained that grades four through sixth will now have two different options for an entre', instead of just one. Both her and DeHart detailed that the students would be able to choose their entre' the day before and be given something color-coded that the student would give to the cafeteria worker the next day at lunch. These color-codes would allow the workers to correctly give each student their entre'. More research, from other schools, and work is going to be done regarding this to assure it runs smoothly.

The high school cafeteria utilizes hand scanners, which allows students to quickly pass through the line so they can get their food and eat lunch. The elementary cafeteria, however, does not have hand scanners, and because of the use of student cards, there have been many incidents of mix-matched bills where a student was incorrectly charged too little or too much. DeHart and Wright plan to obtain a hand scanner, which is estimated to cost from $600-$800, for the elementary in order to decrease the issues they have had in the past. Also, the high school will be receiving a salad bar, which will offer a different salad on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This will not be an added expense to the students, but simply an add-on to their lunch. Wright explained that high school will also offer a second chance breakfast during activity period. This will feature breakfast items such as poptarts, cereal, etc. for students who may have missed breakfast before arriving to their first class.

Another feature Wright and DeHart touched-on is smart snacks. These are state-approved snacks, which will be provided from around 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., and will offer students a healthy snack in between lunch and any afternoon activities, such as sports. Students must have cash to purchase these snacks.

Furthermore, DeHart states that the amount owed from student lunches this past year is $5,617.19, while last year it was around $8,600. DeHart stressed that the school is working on making sure parents know when their student owes money on the account throughout the school year in order to continue lowering the amount in the future.

Additionally, the board discussed the licensed and classified salary schedules for the 2018-2019 school year. After thoroughly reviewing the schedules, the board approved them in a three-to-one vote.

The board agreed unanimously to accept the bid from ASBA for a little over $4,000.

Superintendent DeHart opened the floor to discuss approving bids on computers for the administration. DeHart made the recommendation to approve the lowest bid from CDWG for $7,260 to be taken out of next year's operating fund. The board unanimously approved.

After a brief discussion, the board unanimously approved the bid of $2,359.03 from Harris School Solutions on Etrition, the school's cafeteria software.

Furthermore, the board discussed bids on property, vehicles and mobile equipment insurance. The board handled its election of board officers, with Chris Roberts as president, Jennifer Rahn as vice president and Jim Threatt as secretary. Hope Burns and Bradley Dunlap serve as at-large members.

The school board also unanimously approved the reading of the regular and special board meeting minutes, the financial reports, to appoint superintendent as ex-officio financial secretary and authorize superintendent and district treasurer to sign checks, the transfer of operating funds to food service to cover student accounts in the red (total of $5617.19) and the renewal of Renaissance Learning.

In addition to this, the board unanimously approved to adopt a resolution to elect a disbursing officer for the board. Threatt will act as the primary, with Dunlap as the secondary and backup.

After a 40 minute executive session, the board unanimously approved to hire Katrina Chadwell as a summer custodian.

Alternative Education teacher Jon Wellman addressed the board, commenting on the ALE program, which has now been utilized at the local district some 11 years. He stated the program received a three-year approval, and features the first diamond award winner in the state. Wellman updated the board on his students various improvements over the course of the past school year. He indicated the class has grown, and they are in need of a bigger room.

Wellman noted with projects connected to JAG, as well as others, such as their garden tower, they quickly are running out of space in their classroom now. He also commented that, since he teaches two periods and is also a bus driver, there are three periods the ALE students are not capable of participating in, which causes the school to lose the money they could be making if they had someone teaching during those times. He suggested of hiring an aide to help him during those times, as well as during times he cannot be at school.

In his superintendent's update, DeHart announced to the board there will be a public meeting held at the community center at 4 p.m. on June 26, hosted by the Arkansas Department of Transportation to discuss the proposed roundabouts. Additionally, he mentioned that Mike Justice, a representative from Coca-Cola, recently approached him and is interested in talking with him when the school's contract with Pepsi ends.

DeHart also reported the elementary stage needs new curtains, which is estimated to cost around $10,000-$12,000 for nicer, vinyl curtains. He also mentioned an issue he has repeatedly heard concerning cars sitting in the school's parking lot until very late at night. He noted there have been arrests, as well as underage kids getting in trouble. Apparently, people of different ages have met in the parking lots and left litter for school faculty to clean up. Someone suggested to DeHart to consider placing signs in the parking lot that read “No Trespassing After Hours.”

DeHart, and the members of the of the school board, also sent their thoughts, support and prayers to the family of Trina Hackworth. Hackworth was a long-time cook at the school, and passed away the night before the meeting.

Board member Threatt was absent from the meeting.

Rector Board

The Rector School Board’s regularly scheduled meeting, held on Monday, June 11, was predominated by executive session and personnel decisions. The board first accepted several resignations – Dawn Stokes resigned as custodial supervisor and Dawn Sims resigned her APSCN and ALE coordinator. Other personnel issues focused on classroom teaching positions, extra-curricular positions and stipends which are attached to a teacher’s salary for providing additional services and skills to the district.

Groups of teachers met with administrators during the school year and discussed needs for the students and the teachers. One position they identified as necessary, according to RES Principal Anthony Dowdy, is that of literacy coach. The person’s responsibility would be to work with students, teachers, testing data and the ongoing assessments to track individual student progress.

It was noted the state requires student progress, movement forward for every student for every year. In turn, teachers need resources and a literacy coach will be the person to lead these advancements. With the recommendation of Superintendent Johnny Fowler, Mandy Isom was hired by the board for the position of literacy coach, the first year for such a program at Rector Elementary School. Her kindergarten position was filled by Brooke Clayton, as recommended to the board by the superintendent.

The superintendent further recommended to the board additional hires. The board hired McKenzie Woverton as a sixth-grade teacher, taking Bethany Burn’s position. Burns will be Pre-School Director for 2018-19 and the board also approved an additional sum of $1,000 to be added to the position’s stipend which compensates Burns for summer work, director responsibilities and clerical work--especially if an additional classroom is added at the school.

Jennifer Collier was hired as a new special education teacher and Chelsea Austin will assume the additional responsibility of cheer coach. Christin Holmes will be the high school guidance counselor, career and college counselor and will serve as testing coordinator for the high school. Kathy LeQuieu will remain in her position as technology coordinator for the district and in addition will assume the APSCN Tech duties which will oversee and report during multiple cycles.

APSCN is the student-teacher-parent-financial components of the e-school technology system. Traditionally, the elementary and high school secretaries and the elementary and high school counselors have stepped in to fill assignments with APSCN as necessary but have received no compensation for their work. The board voted to pay a $500 stipend to each position for the jobs each performs.

Fowler presented the financial report to the board. He reported $2,108,131,80 in the operating fund, $1,090,000 in the building fund, with federal funds, cafeteria funds, and special education funds bring the total ending balance to $3,144,375.58.

As the board moved through the lengthy agenda, as required, they also approved the hourly salary schedule which brings the district into line with the increase to minimum wage. Further, as is customary when the budget year closes, Superintendent Johnny Fowler recommended moving some excess funds from the operating budget into the building fund. In this case the amount to be moved is $300,000.

Marmaduke Board

The Marmaduke School Board discussed purchasing another route bus for the 2018-19 school year at their regular meeting Monday night. The purchase of this bus will most likely be spread out into three payments, and will cost in total $64,300. Superintendent Tim Gardner explained that this price was extremely reasonable for the bus, and members unanimously approved the purchase.

Moreover, it was discovered the hourly payment for level one custodians working 178 days did not match the hourly payment of level two custodians working 242 days. Gardner proposed to set the hourly rates at $8.76 per hour for classified employees. This matter was briefly discussed then unanimously approved.

Additionally, the board discussed raising the hourly pay for activity trip drivers to $10 per hour. This includes field trips, sporting trips, etc. After a brief discussion, the board unanimously agreed to table the matter. Keith Richey is to research increasing the classified employees wage to $10 per hour to see if it would be possible.

Gardner explained that in his previous job, he was allowed 120 sick days, but only allowed 90 sick days at Marmaduke. Therefore, he would lose 30 sick days. Gardner made the request to the board for compensation for those 30 days at $65 per day, totaling at $1,950. The board went into a brief, 10-minute executive session. Following this, they unanimously approved to compensate Gardner for his 30 lost days.

Furthermore, a resolution that would allow the Marmaduke School District to do business with Edward Jones was brought to the table. If the resolution is approved, the district would acquire three other quotes from three different banks. If Edward Jones rate prevails over the other three quotes, the board would begin business with Edward Jones. Members consistently agreed to this resolution.

In addition, members discussed an agreement for their student/athletic insurance for the 2018-19 school year. Previously, the school approved a two-year agreement with the Dwight-Jones Agency. This will be the second year of the agreement. The board unanimously approved the agreement.

Kindergarten teacher Brooke Clayton filed her resignation, which the board unanimously approved.

Also, the board unanimously approved the legal transfer of a student from Paragould. She completed this past school year and plans to continue attending Marmaduke High School.

The board also unanimously approved the minutes of the previous meeting, the financial report, bills and the preliminary federal budgets.

The board meeting, held Monday, June 11, marked Gardner's last school board meeting as superintendent. In recognition of his service, the board presented him with, as described by Jason Weatherford, “the biggest [tackle box] Walmart had,” along with some other fishing gear inside of the box. Weatherford commented on behalf of the board, “we appreciate you, as well as the time and effort you have put in.” Gardner thanked the board, stating, “I appreciate the opportunity you all gave me. I have always told others that you guys are great to work with. I wish you the best, and believe things are being left in good shape. This has been a very good experience.” He also reassured the board he would be around and to ask him if they ever need help with anything. “I'm not leaving,” Gardner added. “I will be around and will still be involved with the school.”

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