GRAVETTE – All members were present at the regular meeting of the Gravette School Board on August 16 at the school administration building.
Superintendent Maribel Childress introduced six new faculty members: Brandi Brown, art teacher / interventionist at Glenn Duffy Elementary School; Justin Garton, drama teacher at Gravette High School; Gabrielle Hamilton, music teacher / interventionist at Gravette Upper Elementary; Carolyn Huntsman, Title I teacher at Gravette Upper Elementary; Samantha Luther, social studies teacher and head softball coach at Gravette High School; and Emma Wisdom, a physical education teacher at Glenn Duffy Elementary School and an assistant basketball coach. Each briefly spoke to the board about their backgrounds and plans for the school year.
Dennis Kurczek, Commercial Director, presented the July financial report, including detailed changes to fund balances, and discussed the ESSER / ARP financial report. It’s federal money, Kurczek explained, but the disbursement is left to the state. The district generated $ 24.2 million in revenue this year, he said, and operating expenses are on budget. He said there were 48 students in the ABC PreK program and a “huge waiting list” of other students hoping to enter.
Norman Mitchell, Sports Director, gave an overview of the Sports Department’s budget. He said the sports department earned $ 67,283 last year and is forecasting an income of $ 64,500 for the 2021-2022 school year. He expects it to reach $ 75,000 and $ 82,000, he said, but he likes to be on the Conservative side.
Mitchell said $ 13,000 was budgeted for the wrestling program, including $ 5,000 for uniforms, but since wrestling is a new offering, budgeting for this department has been “kind of a guess.”
The sports budget has been approved.
Becky Sears, Assistant Superintendent, discussed the program and the investigation report. She said that several virtual resources will be available and that she plans to make them accessible to parents online.
Sears spoke about the new teacher training and workshop at the PLC Institute, Professional Development in which teachers have participated. She said it was a very positive event and the teachers were able to plan the team’s goals for next year.
Sears also expressed gratitude for the generous donation of school supplies received from Gravette Bright Futures.
Kelly Hankins, Director of Academic Achievement, presented the Academic Achievement Report. She did a quick update and said there were six virtual students. She said she works with expelled students to make sure they keep pace and closely monitor attendance, making sure everyone has what they need.
Robert Adams and Cody McCool, representatives of Crossland Construction, and Clay McGill, Principal Architect at BiLD Architect, presented a report on the Western Benton County Career Center renovation project. They reported having supply issues on key equipment, including pharmacy classroom supplies, and said some supplies were out of stock. Final inspection will be delayed until all equipment is received. The cost of wood is going down, but the cost of steel is going up, they said.
Adams announced that the bids would be launched on Tuesday for the renovation of the old ALE building, located behind the administration building. This building will house the school’s Academic Success Center. The cost is expected to be between $ 425,000 and $ 475,000.
Childress reported on the US bailout budget. She said administrators will need to take the total budget of $ 2,176,298.60 and allocate funds to various projects. Of that amount, $ 84,000 is spent on a three-year attendance program, which will be piloted throughout the 2021-2022 school year and then reassessed to decide whether to continue. Another $ 10,000 is allocated for materials and supplies for the Success Stories program and $ 125,000 for updating math, science and social studies programs. She said the district wanted to offer more summer schools but couldn’t find enough teachers to staff them.
Hope Duke urged her fellow board members to reach out to their lawmakers and ask them to try to ensure that the agenda is not dictated at the federal level but that more control is left to those at the local level. .
A brief discussion took place on the covid situation and the mask mandate. About 60 people attended the special meeting to discuss covid issues, and many more watched the meeting from a distance. The majority of respondents were very positive and several commended the district for actively seeking customer feedback. Board chairman Jay Oliphant said he was disappointed there was no formal vote on the masking because he felt it created confusion.
Oliphant said he thinks it is important to clarify which numbers are important, for example, how many positive cases would be needed before the district imposes a mask warrant. Duke said an optional mask policy was passed in April and is currently in place. She expressed concern about the origin of the spread of cases. Childress said the students who tested positive that day came from the community rather than school contacts.
There was a discussion about continuing disinfection, and Tracy Moorman expressed concern over whether there would be enough adults to supervise students if some teachers were in quarantine. Childress said some of the newly hired interventionists would be available to cover classrooms and told the board she would keep them apprised of the quarantine numbers and its recommendations.
Kurczek discussed the budget for the general operating fund. Council members voted to transfer $ 2,000,000 from the general operating fund to the construction fund for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is to comply with the requirement of the Arkansas Department of Education that, if at the end of the fiscal year a school district has a net legal balance that exceeds 20% of the income of the school. In the current year, the district must reduce its balance to no more than 20% of income.
Board members also voted to sign the 2021-2022 Statement of Assurance verifying the district’s compliance with Arkansas law, as required by the Arkansas code.
Board members voted unanimously to allow Childress to seek staff approval for a district-provided covid leave policy for the 2021-2022 school year. This will be a continuation of the policy in place last year, providing for 10 days of covid leave. Any days missed above 10 would be deducted from the employee’s sick leave. Employees can work remotely and there will be no distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated staff.
Board members met in an executive session at 8:31 p.m. to discuss employment. When they returned to the open session at 8:52 p.m., they voted to hire Morgan Bayley as a kindergarten teacher at Glenn Duffy Elementary School and to hire Annie Lazure as a teaching assistant (paraprofessional) for special education.