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Dixon hits ground running as new BSD superintendent

By Staff, 07/3/18 9:57 AM

BLEVINS – Stephanie Dixon, the new superintendent for the Blevins School District, hit the ground running with a school board meeting her first day on the job.

The July meeting of the Blevins School Board got off to a late start as Laura Clark, board president, was sequestered behind closed doors with Dixon prior to the meeting. However, once the meeting began, Dixon breezed through most of the agenda in short order.

She said a JAG, or Jobs for Arkansans, program will be started in the district, with the first goal to identify students with barriers to staying in school, graduating and getting jobs. The program will allow the students to become better qualified for employment after graduation. It’s a two-year program, she said, for students in grades 9-12. The JAG program will begin with 10 students.

Dixon said she’s been talking with Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton about upgrading the school’s security, and what can be done, aside from having a resource officer. However, no firm plans have been made as of yet.

While it wasn’t specifically stated, the board talked about the athletic budgets as though they were in the red. The problem appears to be the baseball and softball programs. Dixon said funds can be transferred between activity accounts, but no money can be transferred from the general budget to make up for any shortfalls in activity accounts. The problem, these accounts can’t end the year in the red.

There was discussion about charging admission for baseball and softball games, and closing one gate so everyone entering would have to pay. In addition, the board talked about fundraisers to help make sure these programs don’t end in the red. It was said Blevins High School Principal Jeffery Steed wants to do a gun raffle to raise money.

Janet Banister suggested going retro and selling advertising on the outfield signs.

Dixon said the district has purchased 68 Chromebooks for students and 48 for teachers along with two carts. A new Director of Technology has been hired, Ashley Davis, who, according to Dixon, toured the campus twice to assess the district’s needs.

Dixon told the board the next phase to improve technology will be to buy 500 Chromebooks so everyone on campus will have one, along with buying other equipment needed to get current with today’s technology.

Title I money, she said, will be used to pay for a new reading program as the one the district was using was “archaic”, adding the reading test scores validate this conclusion. The district has bought the Wonders reading program for $38,000. This program, Dixon said, will replace two staff members.

Clark brought up the issue of the school’s walking trail rules, which bars wheels. She said this is discriminating against mothers with infants in strollers who want to use the track. The board agreed strollers could be used on the track, but no other wheeled vehicles, such as skateboards or roller skates.

After a 40-minute executive session, the board accepted the resignation of Emily Davis as a Pre-K teacher, and hired Davis as the new IT director, Chrystal Campbell as a Pre-K teacher, Becky Fortenberry for special ed at BHS and Karen Townsend as a third grade teacher, along with Vance Williams as groundskeeper.

Going into the session, Clark said it was to discuss discipline and finding a candidate for a vacant seat on the board. However, this is a violation of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, as board members aren’t employees, but are elected officials and replacing them must be done in open session.

Milk bids were accepted from Highland, while Tankersley won the food bids. These were the only bids received.