BSB discusses testing, playground equipment

By Staff, 08/15/17 2:06 PM


BLEVINS – There was a lot of talking at the August meeting of the Blevins School Board Monday night, but little action.

The meeting began with the panel discussing the South Arkansas Migrant Education Cooperative. Superintendent Billy Lee informed the board this cooperative pays the Blevins School District for its services and there are around 20 student involved in being taught English as a Second Language (ESL).

Originally, he said, this was established for seasonal workers, but there are few such workers anymore. Instead, ESL and limited English parents have been combined under the program with the idea of getting non-English speaking children in school.

The money provided from the co-op is used to pay the instructor’s salary, which amounts to more than $19,900 a year. This instructor, he added, also works for other districts. Lee pointed out this is done on a year-to-year basis and the program is on the verge of being eliminated.

During a special called meeting in July, the board heard from Educator Consulting Services (ECS) concerning the ACT Aspire program and test scores.

Board member Laura Clark suggested giving the teachers and administrators a chance to show what they can do as this is a new test and there are no results for it yet.

Lee said he’d called other schools, that agreed the test is new with no results. One of the schools mentioned by ECS, he added, is still a Focus school as is Blevins. Some of the things ECS discussed, Lee continued, were items the two principals have talked about doing. He suggested waiting a year, letting the staff and administration work on improving scores and if there’s no significant improvement, ECS can be called.

One of the biggest areas of concerned was writing. Part of the problem is the test is given on computers and many of the third and fourth graders weren’t familiar with keyboarding and how to do things like cutting and pasting. The students, Lisa Doss, Blevins Elementary Principal, said, got frustrated. She added Blevins wasn’t the only district in the state with poor scores, as it was a statewide problem.

The board agreed students need more computer skills. Blevins High School Principal Jeffery Steed told the panel he’s looked into the purchase of devices such as Kindles and chromebooks for one-on-one tracking. These devices, he said, are relatively inexpensive at around $125 each. The eighth grade, he added, showed the greatest deficiency in reading and writing.

Lee suggested starting with the third and fourth grade with these devices and going up through the 10th grade.

Board member Ted Bonner suggested giving the principals a year to “step up their” game before doing anything else.

However, there remains the problem of wi-fi. The board was informed the district is still waiting on its E-rate financing to be approved to upgrade the wi-fi. The district upgraded the wired internet system first and purchased routers for the wi-fi setup. It was pointed out once the funding is approved the district can have the wi-fi upgraded within a few days as they money will be deposited in its account almost immediately.

In the end, the board agreed to give the principals a year to improve test scores and will address the situation at that time.

Playground equipment for BES was also discussed, with no action tabled. Doss provided information from Davis Equipment, a TipTap vendor, already vetted by the state and being approved to do business with districts in Arkansas. She said the problem is new equipment must meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which would require a base of rubber pellets under and around the equipment instead of pea gravel. Currently pea gravel is used on the existing equipment.

She told the panel this would be new equipment, and one of the requirements is the fall height, or the highest point a student would fall before hitting the ground. One piece of equipment has a 6-foot fall height while the other is 5-foot. She added the pea gravel now in use is legal as it was grandfathered in. The new equipment would be in addition to the equipment the district has.

Board President Justice West suggested getting at least two more bids, adding, getting new equipment is a good idea.

Lee said a major problem is the rubber pellets as they would be washed away when it rains and have to be replaced on a regular basis, which isn’t cheap. He said a rubber mat would be better, but isn’t the answer because there would be drainage issues.

The issue was tabled until the September meeting with Doss asked to get more bids.

Lee told the board $750,000 was moved to the building fund, but the district needs to list $103,311.78 as being moved on June 30, and placed into the building fund on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. This, he said, would ensure the district would meet proper coding for auditors.

The board accepted the resignation of a teacher’s aide and part-time bus driver. Lee said the district needs a full-time driver and he’s interviewed three or four, but none had their CDL. He’s currently driving full-time, which is causing time constraint problems as there are times he has to be late in picking students up and students in the route he drives have to leave school early.

He pointed out five people on campus have CDL licenses, but don’t want to drive a bus. The district has nine routes with eight drivers and Lee running the ninth route.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *