TPSD School Board 03.05.13

Today’s meeting of the Tupelo School has just begun. Only four of the five board members are present. Amy Heyer’s term expired on March 1. Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. is expected to announce his nominee for Heyer’s replacement during a 3 p.m. press conference today. The city council would then have to approve that nominee.

Tupelo City Council President and mayor candidate Fred Pitts is in attendance at today’s meeting.

Personnel director Jim Turner is distributing an addendum to the personnel report. It is in a blue folder, which makes me think it is a significant hire. I’ll announce more on that if I hear. (UPDATE: Folder noted that Danny Porter is retiring as athletic director at the end of the school year. The district will immediately begin the search for his replacement).

Today’s agenda is three pages long, so this could be a long meeting. The board will also meet again today at 5 p.m. at Pierce Street School. It will vote during that meeting. It will discuss agenda items during this meeting but will not take action.

This is the board’s annual organizational meeting. They are about to vote on officers. Beth Stone was nominated for board president. No other nominations, so Stone will become president. She was elected unanimously.

Board attorney Otis Tims said “we must thank Mr. Prather for a wonderful year.” Audience applauds. Tims said it has been a “momentous” year for the school district. Eddie Prather has served as board president for the past year.

Rob Hudson was elected as vice president. Kenneth Wheeler was elected as board secretary.

Outgoing president Eddie Prather transfers his gavel to new president Beth Stone.

The board selects Mitchell, McNutt & Sams as its legal counsel for its upcoming school year.

I’d mentioned the board wouldn’t take action at the noon meeting. They are taking action on these organizational issues. But they won’t vote on the rest of the agenda until the 5 p.m. meeting. They will just discuss those issues at this meeting.

The board assigns Patrice Tate the responsibility for posting public notices of its meetings (These are all actions it must renew every year). The board appoints Tate as its recording secretary. Tate has held both positions for numerous years.

The board reauthorizes those who are allowed to sign on district financial accounts, superintendent and finance director for most accounts. It also spells out procedure for THS activity accounts.

The board adopts its previously approved policies, administrative regulations and exhibits.

The board appoints Rob Hudson and Kenneth Wheeler to represent it on a committee to review the 2012-13 school year audit.

This concludes the organizational portion of the meeting.

Stone notes that there will be several recognitions at tonight’s 5 p.m. board meeting. That will include the announcement of Travis Beard as the 2013 TPSD Administrator of the Year.

Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell is making a presentation about “Talk About It,” an anonymous messaging system for students in grades 6 through 12. It allows those who feel bullied or threatened to anonymously notify school administrators and ask for help.

Ezell is showing a report from FoxNews about the use of this technology. The report isn’t about Tupelo but is an interview with the person who created the technology. It allows students to log into a specific site that allows them to send messages to administrators. He said students can also use this for academic issues, depression, pregnancy, self injuries and other concerns. It allows administrators to set up face-to-face meetings to follow up with the initial message.

Ezell said the program is centered in Oxford and that Tupelo is one of the few school districts in Mississippi using it, maybe even the first.

Currently TPSD administrators are the only access points. Counselors may be trained in the future. The program is currently operational, Superintendent Gearl Loden said.

Assistant Superintendent Kim Britton will now speak about the Bring Your Own Device initiative, which will be piloted next year at Milam.

Sixth graders may bring their personal devices to school and use them to complete assignments. It will replace the MacBook initiative at Milam.

“We realize it may present us with some problems, but we have a plan in place to make sure students continue to learn in a technology rich environment.

Britton said there are three concerns. Student equity, submission of work, boundaries and structure.

She said the school will still use MacBooks to lend to students who don’t have their own devices.

On submission of work, she said students will submit work via the cloud

On structure, she said they will work with technology lab to ensure it is equipped to handle the different technology.

Stone: “I like seeing pilot at the start. And this will allow us to work through things before we do it for the whole district.”

Hudson asks how technology will be used differently next year. Britton said in math classes the major technology used will be student response systems. In language arts classes, students will use MacBooks to create assignments. In science and social studies classes, they may be more likely to use tablets. They will tailor it to the assignment.

Britton said she and Ezell are editing the policy, as far as using devices that are not the districts on the district’s network. The policy will also address keeping your hands on your own device. She said they will be able to address making sure students are kept safe on the network in TPSD buildings.

Finance director Linda Pannell is speaking about the audit report. She said it did not disclose any instances of non-compliance with any state or federal laws or regulations. The district has an unqualified report, which she said is what you want. They were cited with one issue with the Learning Foundation and they are working to fix it. It occurred when they had a third-party manage those apartments for the district.

Pannell: “I think we’ll have this fixed and we won’t see it again on the next report.”

Loden said the issue has to do with the fact that Tupelo is the only school district in the state that owns apartments. Everything else on the audit was clean and good. And the technical issue on the apartments is being resolved.

Personnel director Jim Turner is making the personnel report.He mentions the addendum, but I’m not sure what it was. The board will vote on the report tonight.

The board will consider two student discipline recommendations at tonight’s meeting.

Ezell is speaking about the new dyslexia policy, which follows the new law passed last year.

Ezell will talk about several revisions to polices to reflect legislation passed last year and also to help the district align its policies with the Mississippi School Board Association. That will allow the district to use the MSBA computer system for posting its policies online.

Loden will now present the superintendent’s report. He said the MSBA Conference, held Feb. 25-27, went well.

Wheeler said it was a really good conference. Two things that caught his attention were Rachel’s story (a program by the uncle of the first young lady killed at Columbine, there is a program they can present at schools regarding school bullying and other behavioral issues and about character building) and a presentation on school investments.

Wheeler said the district may have to look at investments at one point in time.

Stone said she went to a meeting on Common Core. “There is so much we still need to learn. Not people who are in it every day, but lay people about Common Core.” She said that the Mississippi Department of Education has a website with a lot of information and offers teacher training on iTunes.

Stone: “I think the Mississippi School Board Association does such a good job and it is always helpful to go back and have a refresher course on what the board role is and is not.”

Prather: “We did cover a lot of sessions. I went to one on dual enrollment. There were a lot of questions asked. Then we get back and we are all set (on our own dual enrollment program) today. That is so exciting.”

He said the meeting about how to conduct board meetings was helpful and that it is encouraging to see Tupelo’s Board follow those recommendations.

Hudson said he attended a couple of sessions, one was about business administrators. It helped him to get an understanding of what the expectations are. The information the board received was helpful. He said Jim Keith did a session about legal hot topics. It allowed him to dive into proposed legislation and what the potential implications could be.

He said that having the four members together helps you to work together as a team and gets them a chance to get to know the superintendent as well. Hudson: “On a lot of different levels, it helps us to function better as a board.”

Loden notes the school district’s new agreement with Itawamba Community College for dual enrollment dual credit classes. That agreement was announced during a press conference this morning. THS students will be able to take college-level classes for $100 and will have an opportunity to graduate from high school as college sophomores.

Last week, the district submitted grants for all of its K-8 schools to participate in the Arts Integration program, Loden said.

“This has been a great last few days. At the high school level, we have a partnership with Itawamba like very few districts in the state. At the other level, we hope to have this Arts Integration program,” Loden said.

Loden notes that next week a team from the district will visit a school district in Santa Rosa, Fla., to learn from them. They will learn about an online assessment tool that the school uses that Tupelo will be using soon. They will talk about the Florida model and about Common Core preparation.

“We’re excited about that,” Loden said.

Mary Ann Plasencia will make a presentation about an interlocal agreement between the city and school district for the Safe Routes to School program.

The city applied for money from MDOT under the Safe Routes to School program 2.5 or three years ago. It received $306,000, Plasencia said, and will use it to build sidewalks around Tupelo Middle School and Pierce Street Elementary.

One of the requirements to bidding out the work is for the city and school district to sign an interlocal agreement that will allow them to work on the sidewalks on school property. Plasencia said the city wants to bid the work on April 1 and that it is supposed to be ready for the fall.

The district has applied for another $250,000 for Thomas Street and Lawhon. It won’t know about that for a few months.

Board will discuss future agenda topics. Parent of the Year will be recognized on April 9.

Board will now go into temporary executive session to discuss going into permanent executive session.

The board voted to remain in executive session to discuss a student discipline issue and a personnel issue.

The blue folder was an announcement that Danny Porter will be retiring as athletic director at the end of the school year. A search will begin immediately to find his replacement.