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New features at Blevins board meeting

By John Miller, 11/14/17 10:12 AM

Blevins-Schools

BLEVINS – New faces dominated the Blevins School Board at its November meeting.

Four new members took office last month following the September elections. They were: Cindy Parks, Chandra Dixon, Janet Bannister and Blake Simmons. Three from the previous board returned – Laura Clark, Ted Bonner and Carl McGill.

There were some new features to the meeting as both principals and the lunchroom manager were called upon to give reports, otherwise, it was business as usual.

Superintendent Billy Lee told the panel last year more people paid their taxes early, but appear to be paying them later this year, which has caused a discrepancy in the financial statement. However, he added, it will work out when all the taxes are paid.

He pointed out if the district received more than 98 percent of the anticipated amount, it would have to pay funds back, but would be reimbursed should the amount of taxes be less than 98 percent.

The board approved a contract with the Arkansas School Board Association (ASBA) on its model policy agreement. Basically, this ensures the district will get ASBA approved policies that are modelled on state policies. The board agreed to pay for three years at once, instead of making annual payments. Lee said the money has been budgeted and could be done either way. The board opted to spend $2,850 for a three-year contract.

The next school board election for Blevins will be in May, as the panel opted to go with the primary election instead of the general election as it would be less expensive for the district. The Arkansas Legislature, in its last regular meeting, passed a bill requiring school districts to merge their elections with either the state’s primary or general election.

This, though, has caused a few problems as school elections are held annually, with the terms staggered so at least one seat is open each year. For the Blevins district, no seat would be coming open for the 2019-20 school year. The panel voted to change the term for Zone 7, McGill’s seat, to be open for the 19-20 election.

It was pointed out there was an issue with this past election as Zones 1 and 3, both in Nevada County, were reportedly changed without the board’s approval. It was said the voter registration in these two zones had been altered, which kept one interested person from being able to seek office. Clark, the new board president, suggested a meeting to get the situation corrected.

Interim Principal Pat Loe gave the report for the Blevins Elementary School, saying there’s a problem with student discipline because there is no in-school-suspension (ISS) for students in K-5, and there are students causing disruptions because of their behavior. The parents of these students, have also denied the use of corporal punishment.

Lee suggested using a substitute teacher to handle ISS on an as-needed basis.

Jeff Steed, principal at Blevins High School, said the first round of the ACT Aspire assessments have been done and the reports will be printed to see where BHS students stand. Teachers will go over problem areas to help get scores up.

The school’s leadership program, he said, did a food drive for Hope in Action and also prepared meals for 25-30 people there. In addition, BHS has started a “Friends for Santa” program to help provide needy families with Christmas gifts this year. He said there are still families needing to be adopted.

Angie Mitchell, lunchroom supervisor, told the board the district is at 85 percent free and reduced lunch, which provides most of the funding for the lunch program. She said the law requires a reduction in the sodium levels, which amounts to around a quarter-tea spoon.

Mitchell said her goal is to serve food the students will eat and seasons it as needed. She told the board much of the food comes premade, but some is homemade. She added the Thanksgiving meal will be served Wednesday.

She was asked about using produce from farmer’s markets. This, Mitchell said, has been looked into and there aren’t any area farmers producing enough for school use. She continued, saying the district has looked into building a greenhouse on the BHS campus which could provide some vegetables for the lunchroom.

As far as most of the foodstuff, she said, the district seeks bids annually, but doesn’t have to go with the low bidder. However, if the low bidder is rejected, documentation must be provided giving the reason why. Mitchell said the caloric requirements for students K-5 is 650 for lunch, while it’s 850 for grades 6-12, which leads to children going home hungry.

Mitchell ended her talk by asking the board to consider giving the lunchroom workers a pay raise, while not asking for one for herself.

In other business, the board was informed the small bus is still in the shop and the mechanics have no idea what’s wrong with it. A bigger bus is being used in its place.

A 25-minute executive session was held to discuss Lee’s resignation and contract buyout, according to Clark.

As McGill didn’t run for reelection, and no one else ran in Zone 7, the board voted to appoint McGill to fill the slot until the May election, at which time he can run for reelection.

Parks asked that all applications for superintendent be sent directly to Clark. Lee said the district is advertising the position and has received around 15 applications. He pointed out those submitted via email are forwarded directly to Clark and those mailed are also given to her.

As the meeting ended, Steed addressed a rumor going around about his becoming the next superintendent. He said he has no interest in the position at this time because he likes where he’s at and who he’s working with. He said this could change in the next 10 years, but at this time, he doesn’t want to be superintendent.