GRAVETTE -- Maribel Childress, superintendent of Gravette Public Schools, began the regular meeting of the Gravette school board Monday, Oct. 18, by welcoming and celebrating several persons.
First, she recognized Coach Bryan Bearden and members of the Gravette High School golf team -- Braxton Muldoon, Landon Joneson, McCoy Kildow, Isaiah Larson and Rachel Deihl -- who opened the meeting with the pledge of allegiance to the flag. She also welcomed Jim Singleton, of Arvest Bank, who presented high school principal Shannon Mitchell with a $12,500 check for use at Gravette High School. Also recognized were new kindergarten teacher Rachel Mathison, who recently moved to Gravette from Lubbock, Texas, and recipients of the superintendent's fall Innovation Grants, noting that there were twice as many as in the past.
The consent agenda was approved as presented. This included accepting the resignation of classified staff member Amber Shilling.
Dennis Kurczek, business manager, discussed the September financial report and the ESSER/ARP financial report.
Becky Sears, assistant superintendent, gave the curriculum and instruction report, which included the annual minority report. She said percentages of minority students and staff are down a little, but going to career fairs and advertising in different languages has helped increase the number. She also gave the English language learner report, which tracks those students who use a language other than English as their first language. She said that there are 26 English language learners in Glenn Duffy Elementary, 31 in Upper Elementary, 40 in middle school and 49 in high school, who are in a separate class.
Rachel Gibson gave the gifted and talented report, noting that new resources have been ordered for the high school. She said 18% of the school population qualifies for the gifted and talented program.
Kelly Hankins gave the academic success report. She reported 31 students have been served in quarantine catchup sessions and these sessions will be continued as needed. She said that staff is training now for a mentor program for middle school students and representatives from the Arkansas Workforce Center are coming to meet with all seniors in the ALE program.
Nikki Brecheen, Glenn Duffy Elementary principal, gave the pre-K enrollment report. She reported 59 students in pre-K, 51 of them 4-year-olds and eight 3-year-olds. The program has a capacity of 60 students, so there is one spot still available.
Superintendent Childress discussed the district enrollment report, showing an enrollment history and projections for the next three years. She also gave an update on the Burlsworth memorial project and said the committee recommends a memorial recognition on the concession stand wall with a poster in the center and plaques on the left and right, one of which would record the local winners of the Burlsworth award.
Superintendent Childress also gave an update on the projected land acquisition. Community meetings began that day and several are planned to inform the public about the district's plans for expansion and give an opportunity for citizen input. Finally, she discussed the 2021 ESSA school index. She reported that the majority of schools in the state showed a decline in scores because of the pandemic. Gravette schools showed a slight decline, except for Glenn Duffy Elementary, which improved. All Gravette schools rated above the state averages.
In action items, Becky Sears gave an update on the school board election zones, presenting five options for board members to consider. Members voted unanimously to select option five to present to the Benton County Election Commission for consideration since it would distribute the population in each zone more equitably than the others. All seven board seats will be up for re-election and after the election board members will be drawing to determine their lengths of term.
Board members voted unanimously to allow the schools to return to having visitors and volunteers in the schools as was normal before the covid outbreak since there are no positive covid cases and no quarantined cases in the district at this time. This policy will be in force for the next month and will be re-evaluated in 30 days.
Members voted to authorize Superintendent Childress to renegotiate the turf project contract, eliminating the $6,000 lodging and travel expense, and to phase in the 3% construction phase commission based on completion of the project prior to the first home game. The initial $10,000 engagement fee will be paid out of student growth funds.
Board members reviewed the meeting dates for the November, January and February board meetings. They voted to change the scheduled Nov. 15 board meeting to Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m., and the January school board meeting from Jan. 17 to Jan. 10 at 6 p.m.
Taos Jones gave a report on commissioned school security officers and said there are nine across the district. He said feedback has been positive about the program.
Board members moved into executive session at 7:37 p.m. to discuss employment matters and returned to open session at 8:19 p.m. After their return to open session, they voted to hire Amanda Carnahan and Bethany Pitts as special education paraprofessionals, Regina Miller as a Title I paraprofessional, Cassandra Carter as a pre-K aide at Glenn Duffy Elementary and Trina Deady as a lunch duty aide for Gravette Upper Elementary.
Board members voted to approve the transfer of one student from Gravette to the Gentry school district and the transfer in of a seventh-grade student. A third-grade student was denied entry due to capacity. They also voted that a person who is listed as a reference on an employment application cannot be on the hiring committee.