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Gravette board celebrates retiring teachers, makes personnel changes

by Susan Holland | May 23, 2023 at 8:16 a.m.
Susan Holland/Westside Eagle Observer Justin Malott and Dusti Larsen pose after being honored at the May 15 meeting of the Gravette school board as recipients of fall 2022 Superintendent's Innovation Grant awards. Malott received $2,500 for his Student Leaders in Agriculture project in which his Agriculture Mechanics students built a chicken coop and garden planter boxes for use beside the Upper Elementary School. Larsen received $750 for her Active and Engaged Minds in Motion project, which she used to buy additional chairs, a sensory path and sensory objects for her classroom.

GRAVETTE -- Taos Jones, middle school principal, led the pledge of allegiance to open the regular meeting of the Gravette school board Monday evening, May 15. Brad Melton, president of the Gravette soccer league, and Stephen Moyers spoke to the board during the patron comment period to support adding soccer to the high school athletics program.

Maribel Childress, superintendent of schools, welcomed Dusti Larsen and Justin Malott, two recipients of the fall 2022 Superintendent's Innovation Grants, and each told a little about the projects for which they used their grant money.

Larsen, a teacher in the elementary Lion's M.A.N.E. (Meeting All Needs Everyday) classroom, received $750 for her Active and Engaged Minds in Motion project, which she used to buy additional chairs, a sensory path, fidget tools, and sensory objects for students who need a quiet time or calming influence.

Agriculture teacher Malott received $2,500 for his Student Leaders in Agriculture project. His Agriculture Mechanics students built a chicken coop and garden planter boxes for use beside the Upper Elementary school. FFA members will use them to teach the Upper Elementary students about agriculture and the responsibilities of raising chickens and gardening. Eggs and produce harvested from the project will be shared with students needing supplemental food.

Childress also celebrated six retiring faculty members: Tina Burgess, Sandy Cremente, Shelia Gibe, Dorothy Hadley, Vickie Johnston and Brian Osborn.

Chris Flynt was not in attendance at the meeting. The other six board members moved into executive session at 6:17 p.m. to discuss personnel matters. They returned to open session at 7:05 p.m.

Members voted to accept the consent agenda, which included approving the minutes of the April 17 regular board meeting and the May 1 special board meeting, approving the V1-B Assurance, accepting the resignations of Lacy Haag as director of the 21CCLC After School Program, Jacob Reiff and Dean Huffstetler, accepting a voluntary transfer for Amanda Dodge from Glenn Duffy Elementary to Gravette Upper Elementary, and approving three expulsions.

Dennis Kurczek, business manager, gave the monthly financial report. He reported that transportation expenses are already at 98% of the budget, due partly to the cost of fuel but also because buses have made additional trips to athletic events since the boys' baseball team went to the final four and the girls' softball team played for and won the state title. Kurczek also gave the ESSER/ARP financial report.

Superintendent Childress introduced Paige Wood, who gave the communications annual report. Heather Finley, board president, thanked Wood for her work and commented that communications and social media are very important to the community.

Sheila Roughton, director of the food service department, gave the food service annual report. She reported that the school lunch debt is at $28,185.31 as of April 30, and an effort is being made to collect as much as possible.

Childress gave the monthly attendance and enrollment report and said the school system has almost 100 more students than last year at this time. Thirty-five students were lost throughout the year for various reasons.

Childress reported on the 2023-2024 compensation increases, saying most employees received either 3% or 4% raises. She also reported on the 2023-2024 operating and ARP/ESSER budgets and said there is still $100,000 in the ARP/ESSER budget. Finally, she gave an update on employment changes for the 2023-2024 school year.

In action items, board members voted to approve the second reading of the licensed personnel sick leave policy. This action was in response to a request from the personnel policy committee to pay employees an increased amount for unused sick days.

Board members considered several Arkansas School Board Association model policy changes and approved a first reading of these changes. Board president Heather Finley pointed out that board members put in a tremendous amount of time preparing for these meetings as the policy manual considered for that evening's meeting was 250 pages, and the board members' packet was 180 pages. Before the vote of acceptance, Superintendent Childress reviewed a lengthy list of over 70 policies, explaining which were new policies and which involved changes.

Board members considered adjustments to classified contracts, but no action was taken. They did vote to approve shifting Amanda Kelly from a 225-day building secretary position to a 240-day district administrator position.

Board members voted to approve hiring Tyler Simmons as an elementary physical education teacher/girls' basketball assistant coach, Nathan Moots as a fourth-grade teacher, Jerrie Price as the Western Benton County Career Center director, and to pay Lori Miller the long-term sub daily rate for the 32 days she served as a substitute kindergarten teacher at Glenn Duffy Elementary School.

In other actions, members voted to approve seeking bids for the roof overlay above the original locker room at the high school, to authorize BiLD Architects to seek bids for stadium lighting, to approve the purchase of rooftop HVAC units above the Performing Arts Center and high school library and to approve replacing the floors in the front boys' and girls' restrooms at the high school with Cremona TG poured flooring. Payment for the last two projects will come from the building fund.

Board members voted to accept the bid for a 77-passenger Type C diesel bus and a 48-passenger Type C diesel bus for a total cost of $259,701. Funds for one bus will be available in the 2024-2025 transportation budget, and the other will be purchased using Enhanced Transportation Funds and/or student growth funds. Approval was also given to authorize the purchase of a used van through Enterprise Car Sales, not to exceed $23,000, using student growth funds.

Members voted to approve a memorandum of understanding with Taos Jones

School choice applications were considered, and members voted to accept 54 students who wished to enter the Gravette school district and to release 17 students who have applied to enroll elsewhere.

Board member Matt Croxdale drew the name of a school employee who will be surprised with the monthly award for Outstanding Employee.

Board members will hold a special hiring meeting on Monday, June 5, and the next regular board meeting will be held Monday, June 19, at 6 p.m.

Print Headline: Gravette board celebrates retiring teachers, makes personnel changes


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