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PSD ranked among best in nation

By Staff, 04/22/20 10:24 AM

PRESCOTT – Prescott School District Superintendent Robert Poole gave a shout-out to his daughter, Caytlee, for advancing to the national level in the DAR essay contest.

The seventh grader not only won the local competition, but also won the South-Central Regional event. Poole said this is the first time a student from Prescott the regional event. If she wins the national contest, she’ll go to Washington, D.C. He told this to the Prescott School Board at its April meeting Tuesday evening.

He also pointed out Prescott High School (PHS) is on the U.S. News and World Report’s list of best high schools in the nation as PHS is in the top 40 percent of schools in the U.S. “It’s official!: Prescott High School is a 2020 Best High School, based on rankings that U.S. News & World Report published this morning. Here is your school’s updated U.S. News profile page, with its new National, metro-area, and school-district rankings: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/arkansas/districts/prescott-school-district/prescott-high-school-1436.

By earning a national ranking in the top 40 percent, PHS achieved status as a U.S. News Best High School and gained eligibility to display a U.S. News-trademarked 2020 Best High Schools award ‘badge’,” according to U.S. News and World Report. The PSD is also the top-ranked district in the area.

The board was told though school may be out for the rest of the year, the district is making sure students are fed under the free lunch and breakfast program. While the cafeteria staff works to prepare the meals, volunteers deliver them and hand them out. Poole said the district gets reimbursed for this, but it’s being done for the children, not the money, and the parents are grateful.

Nancy Kenworthy, Aramark director for the district’s cafeteria, said the district has 73.3 percent on the free lunch program, with 26.7 percent considered paying. Since the arrival of COVID-19, though, and schools being closed, now 100 percent of students are on the free lunch program.

She pointed out nothing has changed as far as the meals go. The district is still required to meet all federal and state guidelines for the meals.

In talking about how things are done, Kenworthy said the cafeteria crew prepares the meals while 20 volunteers either deliver them or hand them out twice a week at a drive-through. Everyone wears personal protective equipment and those handing the meals out at the drive-through are given all the gloves they need. The district, she said, has been doing this for five-and-a-half weeks and will continue doing it through June 30, the end of the district’s fiscal year. She and Valerie Cobb have written a grant, which was approved, for $2,000. They’d like to buy a sealing machine for the cafeteria so the meals can be sealed like “lunchables” in the grocery stores. This, she told the board, would make the food last longer and avoid spillage. The sealing machine can also be used after the pandemic ends, she said, to wrap sandwiches and salads.

Poole said Eli Ratcliff, with Shelter Insurance, donated $1,000 to the school’s feeding program as well. Kenworthy added Wal-Mart has donated $6,000 worth of bags for the meals as well.

Poole told the board Arkansas is one of the leading schools in the nation at getting students fed as 90 percent of the schools have a breakfast and lunch program during this crisis, compared to 40 percent nationwide.

The board approved the required ESOL guide update, and a disclosure for when Steamatic of Hot Springs was hired to clean the district’s buildings. The disclosure is required because Poole’s older brother, Richard, works for the company. The district spent $13,000 to have all of the building’s cleaned and sanitized and has applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money to be reimbursed.

In other business, the board approved the 2020-21 salary schedule. This increases the base pay by $1,000, while the step increases remain unchanged. This is a requirement from the state as the legislature passed a law mandating all districts have a base pay of $36,000 within four years. Poole said this increase raises the base to $33,800 for new teachers with a Bachelor’s degree.

The board approved applying for a TCM credit card to be used for travel and other needs. The board’s approval was required before the company would discuss the district getting a card.

A purchase order for $17,136 was also approved for five new doors and five additional cameras from Progressive Technologies. The doors will be installed on the old gym, which is used for basketball and physical education, while the cameras will be placed in blind spots on the campus. The money will be paid out of the recent bond issue after the millage passed.

Enrollment in the district is at 901 total students. There are 313 in Prescott Elementary, 303 in Prescott Junior High and 285 in PHS. Poole said he expects to see a lot of movement as people are looking for work.

In discussing the audit, Poole said there were no findings, which is good.

He said the district wants to hold commencement exercises, but how and when isn’t known. Everything depends on when the governor gives the OK to open the state up again.  The students, he said, deserve it and he wants to give them a real graduation. However, he added, not all seniors may participate, and this is the same for the prom.

“We’ll set a date when we can, same for the prom, and if there’s enough interest we’ll have one,” he said.