Today's Tupelo School Board meeting has begun. Board members Beth Stone, Eddie Prather, Amy Heyer and Rob Hudson are present. Kenneth Wheeler is not currently here.
Board Vice President Beth Stone is speaking about a conference that school board members attended over the summer. It was a regional school board meeting hosted by Mississippi.
Stone: "The issues we face are not unique to the Tupelo Public School District. In fact, they are quite universal."
Said it helps to bounce ideas back and forth. Also said district is fortunate to ahve a community that provides resources.
Stone said she attended a session about interactive white boards. She said they allow teachers to get instant response about whether students really understand concepts.
Another session dealt with ways to lower the dropout rate. It used a computer program that identified early warning signs. Once students had a certain number of warning signs, a team could come in and intervene to help the child.
Stone: "We don't just get information from the feelings of folks. We need data to back up that information...We need to look at our weaknesses and address those to make sure we become a better district."
Board President Eddie Prather said he attended a session of funding and using it to support programs in place to help students. He learned of some possible grant opportunities through AT&T.
He also attended a session about a code of conduct for school board members. "We have a great relationship with our administration, but you never know if something could go astray if you don't have a roadmap." Prather has an example of a code that the board may want to consider adopting.
At another session, an educator talked about the impact that teachers have on stuents' lives years after the student was in the classroom. "We don't ever need to mark anyone off," Prather said.
Superintendent Greal Loden said he enjoyed the session on graduation rates and learned from some things that Louisiana is doing.
The Board is now recognizing groups that helped get the school year started: transportation, technology and maintenenace departments. Representatives from all three departments are now present at the meeting.
Assistant Superintendent Kim Britton said in late May/ early June, the technology department began repairing MacBook cases. They did so for about a month when Apple gave the district the opportunity to send back 4,500 laptops for those covers to be replaced. She said they worked long hours to get them boxed and shipped to California. When they arrived back in Tupelo, they had to be re-barcoded. "They've worked long hours and done all of this for our students." Brittion said THS and TMS distributed all of their MacBooks the first week of school and that the district is currently working to distribute them to the sixth-graders.
Loden: The average person does not realize, when you have 4,500 MacBooks ready to go and then you replace the cases and when you get those back, every one had to be barcoded and re-inventoried.
Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell is now talking about transportation. She said that Lee Stratton has done a tremendous job getting all of the buses ready to go this year. Stratton is executive director of extracurriculars and director of transportation.
Ezell: "They get up before the sun rises and they remarkably had all of our students in place last Friday by 4:40, which is a record for the beginning of school...The transportation department and bus drivers have done a fabulous job."
Stratton said the district has almost 70 drivers. Every position and every monitoring position was filled at the beginning of school, he said.
Stratton noted the department has worked through a few issues. He said they figured out a way to establish a route that allowed them to seperate students in the district's alternative school and students in the High School Advancement Academy on seperate buses. Another issue is that middle school and high school students share buses, Stratton said. They are trying to find a way to solve that so students are not waiting a long time after school for their bus.
Stratton said they've started their process of transporting teachers' children back to the teachers' school at the end of the day. He said that process started on Monday. He read an email from a teacher thanking them for the service.
Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon is thanking the maintenance department. He also thanks Pam Traylor from the Office for Student Services for her work over the summer handling residency issues.
Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Leigh Mobley is now providing an update on the department.
She said the department has worked hard to implement the new Classworks computer program and Reading Street computer program. She said Reading Street is the first consistent reading program (K-6) the district has had in a long time.
The department has worked to provide curriculum documents, assesments, professional development and support across the district, Mobley said.
She said the department will focus on consistency between what is required, what is taught and what is tested.
The department is making videos to help teachers get onto Classworks and Reading Streets. They will also communicate through newsletters and Haiku. They are developing calendars that will be on the website and that they can provide to teachers.
Board approves consent agenda with several items.
Board approves claims docket.
Human Resources Director Jim Turner is presenting about personnel. Board approves the human resources report.
Loden has two updates for the board. He said the district's homeless program was monitored on June 30 and was given satisfactory marks by the Mississippi Department of Education.
Also Dr. Loretta Hartfield of Rankin Elementary was chosen as a state-level finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching program.
Finance Director Linda Pannell is presenting the budget. She said there were a couple of tweaks but that it didn't change much since the July 31 budget hearing. The budget calls for .68 fewer mills this year than it did last year for debt service, meaning there could be a slight tax decrease, Pannell said.
Board member Rob Hudson said the distrit has its work cut out for it to manage costs and increase student learning. He said he spent a lot of time on the phone with Pannell yesterday and she was able to answer his questions.
Eddie Prather said the board will start work sessions to start planning for next year's budget.
The board adopts the budget.
Loden said that test score data will be embaroged until Sept. 15, but that the district is expecting good things from those.
Board goes into executive session to discuss a personnel issue.