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Busy night for PSB

By Staff, 09/27/17 10:05 AM


PRESCOTT – It was a busy night for the Prescott School Board at its September meeting Tuesday night.

The first order of business was the elect a slate of officers as the annual school election was held last week. There was no change as Patricia Blake remains president, JoBeth Glass is vice president and Sandra Evans is secretary. Robert Poole, superintendent of the Prescott School District, congratulated the board members on being reelected, saying it’s a thankless job with no pay, but the district’s success depends on having a good school board.

The board also approved mandated assurances for driver’s education standards and an annual district statement of assurances stating the district will follow all state and federal guidelines.

Linda Benton brought three students from her orientation to teaching class to the board meeting so they could see what happens at such meetings and how the board makes its decisions. All three, Benton said, are planning careers as educators. She pointed out the class is creating a pamphlet on what makes students succeed in school and how parents can become more involved with the district.

Missy Walley followed providing an update on the Professional Learning Community (PLC). She said money was given to the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) to be used in PLC programs in schools across the state. The Arkansas Legislature voted to require schools apply for grants to make sure they would be more involved in the program from start to finish, instead of simply giving money to districts.

Walley said 83 schools applied for grants with 10 being approved. However, Prescott was the only district in the state to be awarded a grant. The grant doesn’t involve cash, but provides $360,000 in goods and services for the district to help identify and improve weak areas. The district has already had a needs assessment done, addressing the problem areas. The results of the assessment, she added, should be ready for the October meeting.

The district, she continued, was said to have a “family atmosphere and foundation” which is good, but needs direction academically for the teachers. Walley told the board, and audience, the PLC covers the entire district, not just one portion of the schools. The district’s “official coach” David LaRose spent two days in the schools talking to teachers and administrators.

Part of the problem, Walley said, is teachers need a specific time to meet and talk about nothing but curriculum, with no side issues involved. She said LaRose suggested norms be set for these meetings and the teachers hold one another accountable for upholding the norms. He and a senior account manager with the program will return on Oct. 9 to do project planning. By then, she said, the district should have the needs assessment back and will be able to work on a mission, vision and goal statements.

She pointed out the district’s standards aren’t being changed, but more focus will be placed on what is being taught to and mastered by the students. This is a three-year program the district will be working on under the grant. Tina Smith, with the ADE, who’s over the program, will be in Prescott on Oct. 6 to talk with board members and let the district know what the state expects it to accomplish.

The board approved the 2017-18 minority teacher and administrator recruitment plan. The short term goals are to recruit qualified minority teaching candidates from surrounding colleges and attend career fairs at local universities; develop a plan to help area residents discuss potential minority candidates to be hired; and develop strategies to recruit more minority teachers and administrators.

However, as Willie Wilson, Dean of Students, pointed out, the problem is there are few minority students going into education in areas the district needs. He added, just because a person is in a minority and has a teaching degree doesn’t guarantee them a job automatically as the district seeks only qualified applicants for all positions. The plan also includes a “grow your own” concept by establishing a Future Educator of America Club to get and keep students interested in careers in education.

Former PSD graduate Brandon Marks is an intern with the district, teaching fifth and sixth grade math and science, as well as acting as a football coach. He’s earned a degree from Ouachita Baptist University, where, he said, he was the only minority in the education program the last four or five years. “I understand where the administration is coming from where minorities can make a difference with students being successful and seeing students find the passion to learn, realizing they don’t have to become “hood rats” in order to succeed.

Poole said the fifth and sixth grade students run up to Marks, who’s already made an impact as the students look up to him.

Former Prescott Elementary School Principal Howard Austin, who’s on the recruitment committee, gave a history of the district, saying it fully integrated in 1969 and no teachers lost their jobs when this occurred. He said, in a nutshell, the PSD has been at the forefront when it came to hiring and retaining minority personnel, but the problem is finding qualified people anymore. Part of the reason for this, he continued, is the salary schedule, because those with teaching degrees can go elsewhere and make more money.

PHS Principal Tommy Pooole said Marks will be able to get a job anywhere in the state once he completes his certification, but what he really wants to do is be a coach. Robert Poole said most of the coaches in the district are also full-time classroom teachers, and if a person wants to coach, they should be allowed to do so, as coaches have a big impact on children in Prescott.

The panel also approved a program for English Speakers from Other Languages (ESOL). Frank Henson said the program deals with those students who live in homes where English isn’t the dominant or primary language spoken, and who, themselves, aren’t proficient in the English language, whether it’s reading, writing or listening.

Students, he said, are tested to see what their skills are with English. Many, he added, are already proficient in English, but those who aren’t are placed in the program. When these students become proficient in English, they are monitored for four years, and if they show signs of losing this proficiency, they’re returned to the program.

A homeless program was also approved by the board. Henson defined being homeless as having inadequate or unstable night housing. There are times, he said, when students may stay a night or two with a relative, but never be sure where they’ll spend the next night, or they’ll have a regular roof over their heads, but no access to utilities.

These students, he said, are identified with help from teachers and law enforcement, along with other agencies. The idea is to help these children with school supplies, meals and transportation, along with other needs they may have, such as shoes and hygiene items. Food Share and the clothing ministry also work with these students and their families, as do local civic clubs and organizations.

Henson said at this time there are no homeless students in the district, but added, it’s hard to identify those who are.

Tia Blakely, administrator for the 21st Century grant program, updated the board on what’s going on. She said this is an after school program for students in grades K-8 from 3:20-6:20 p.m. There are 105 students enrolled at this time, with around 25 more on a waiting list. The program operates Monday through Thursday, with students doing homework and other activities. The student rotate on a weekly basis to learn about the various activities, such as cooking, scrapbooking and photography. The program, she continued, works with the Arkansas Department of Health, the Extension Service and other groups, as well as partnering with Prevention Services on programs such as bullying, alcohol and drug use, etc…

The district has also entered into an agreement with the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope (UACCH) to teach a night welding class at PHS using the new agriculture facility. The classes will start in January and will be open to anyone interested in learning the fundamentals of welding as this is a foundation class. Poole said he’ll have more information, such as the cost of the course, course requirements and meeting times, at the October meeting, which will be moved up a week to Oct. 17. This class will last a full semester, and plans are to have more courses offered in Prescott through UACCH.

The board approved the 2017-18 budget, with a budget workshop to be held in the near future. Poole said the budget is as conservative as it could be made and the goal is to end the year with more than the district started with, but this isn’t always possible.

He pointed out a new law won’t allow districts to carry over more than 20 percent of their operating budgets. Those that do will be penalized and the amount over 20 percent withheld from their state aid.

Poole updated the board on construction projects for the district. He said the cameras have already been installed and are being used, though a couple need to be readjusted. These cameras, he added, provide more coverage than before. Plans to air condition the gym have been finalized and will be submitted to the ADE for approval. Once the ADE approves, bids for this project will be let. New seating for the PHS auditorium has been ordered, but will take about two months to be built, shipped and installed.

In closing, Poole said the Oct. 17 meeting will also be the district’s annual report to the public, which is required by law.

The district currently has 979 students enrolled, with 526 at PES and 453 at PHS.


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