Tupelo School Board 07.16.13

I will be live blogging from today’s Tupelo School Board meeting. The meeting just begun. All five board members are present.

The board is approving past minutes. Board member Eddie Prather said the minutes of the board retreat should be edited to reflect the board’s satisfaction with Loden for his first year. He said the board discussed that during the retreat and that the minutes should reflect it. The board approves Prather’s motion.

Executive director of curriculum Leigh Mobley is making a presentation about the district’s summer curriculum writing project. Fifty teachers participated, she said.

There were three goals:

• Revised pacing guides in English/ language arts and math that are 100 percent common core aligned

• Develop vocabulary lists and appropriate strategies to support more rigorous vocabulary insturction

• Develop bell ringers

“I feel very good that these three goals were met during the summer curriculum writing project,” Mobley said.

Mobley is showing that the district teachers will have links to all of these resources on their Haiku pages.

She is also displaying sample bell ringers. There is a fourth-grade math question about a farmer’s fields. It has a diagram of various geometric shapes representing multiple fields and asks what percentage of the total value each field represents.

An old third-grade bell-ringer would have asked students to subtract or to estimate a subtraction problem. A new bell-ringer might ask the same thing through a word problem.

Mobley shows several other math bell-ringers that also involve word problems that involve multiple steps.

Board member Rob Hudson asks how the district can communicate these changes. He said these changes mean parents will need to be more supportive of their children. Mobley said the district tried to communicate that last year in its Common Core nights for parents and that it needs to continue to do that.

Hudson asks if there are resources parents can use to school themselves to be able to help children better. Mobley said there are online resources but they may need to do a better job of letting parents know about those resources. Maybe through its newsletter. Hudson suggests they could hand out some sort of “Common Core survival guide” at its Back to School night.

Mobley said the district will have more parent informational meetings about Common Core.

Now Mobley will speak about the Classworks program.

Classworks computer program was used in kindergarten through eighth-grade last year.

1,428,547 language arts, reading and math activities were completed by students throughout the year.

The average student time on task was 38.5 hours throughout the year and an average of 5,100 students worked on Classworks.

Mobley shows a chart that the number of students who were on-grade level and above grew throughout the year.

“Strides were made in every single building on the students who took the fall and spring benchmarks who were considered on or above grade level,” Mobley said.

Mobley said Classworks had a All-Star contest that picked the top 500 students in all of its schools that had the highest amount of time of task with 70 percent proficiency. The problem was that Tupelo was going to have all 500 students, Mobley said, so Classworks limited it so each school could only get 10 students. Tupelo got 50 students, 10 from each of its five participating schools.

“Our students used Classworks, they used it well and they made gains,” Mobley said.


Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon and facilities director Julie Hinds are presenting an update on summer construction projects.

The first one is the expansion of the high school cafeteria. They added an extension to the building and also added outdoor seating: amphitheater-style seating and a knee-high wall where students can sit.

“I think it is very pleasing to the eye and I think it is also very functional. It is one of the best things you will see across the state in all of our high schools,” Dillon said.

Hinds said they will also add outdoor metal tables students can use at lunch and also use in their classes.

The next project is Carver. They are replacing the flooring throughout the classrooms, replacing all windows in the main building and painting. Dillon said they will also add security features at Carver.

Another project will replace the rubber floor gym at Tupelo Middle School and renovate restrooms there.

There are several roofing projects. The largest one is at Tupelo High School: includes cafeteria, both gyms and two or three other buildings (I didn’t get the list of all of them typed quickly enough). Milam and Rankin are also getting new rooms. There are also fencing projects at Lawndale and Parkway, of the playground areas.

Dillon said they are working on a security system at THS where all of the buildings will be locked and teachers will have access cards to get into those buildings where needed. Hinds is speaking of a system where security officers will have a cyber key that stores data on them. There will be buttons throughout the school that will log when security officers are at various points so they can track where those officers have been. Dillon said that emerged from a recommendation from Board member Kenneth Wheeler, who is head of security at Northeast Mississippi Medical Center.

Hinds said the district will be asking for the board to reward a contract for the baseball field. The contractor is ready to get started on it and the completion would be Dec. 31. This would be phase 2 of the project and would be more aesthetics and the stands for the fans, Dillon said. It would include the addition of bathrooms and storage space and the completion of fencing.

“I think when it is all done, it will be a nice facility,” Dillon said.

Prather asks if the board could get a tour of the new facilities.

Loden said Carver will look like a new school and the high school have a new facility. He said they are all on schedule for the start of school.


12:50 p.m.

Director of finance Linda Pannell is presenting an overview of the district’s budget for next year. The district will have a public budget hearing tonight at 5 p.m. It would then vote to approve the budget at a future meeting.

151 school districts in Mississippi now, the number has decreased from last year because of consolidation and will decrease again next year, Pannell said.

611 teachers in Tupelo Schools. That number can change, she said. That is where the district was when they ran the numbers. About 70 special education teachers, also have pre-K, curriculum, drivers ed, gifted, media specialists, music, art, band, etc.

833 people in the district’s staff, ranging from superintendent, principals, hearing officers, interpreters (for hearing impaired), security, technology, warehouse, custodial staff and maintenance.

$88 million for total expenses. Large budget areas include instructional salaries, instructional supplies, construction, debt services, technology department and transportation. (I don’t have all of those figures now, but I will have them soon and have them in tomorrow’s paper.)

Average teacher’s salary is about $45,000. That is based on a master’s degree and 12 years or experience

The district has 79 National Board Certified Teachers. Several of those with that certification retired last year, Pannell said.

Enrollment: The district has about 100 more students than it did in 2002-03, Pannell said.

Assessed valuation: City gave an estimated assessment but said it could go up. Pannell said if it goes up, she will bring it back to the board to see what it wants to do with that. I don’t have that figure yet, but Pannell said it is about the same as it was this past year.

Pannell said the district probably won’t spend everything that is budgeted because it never does.

Expenditures from all funds will be about $98 million. (I’ll find out the difference between that and the $88 million. It might include the debt for construction, or sometimes it includes money transferred from one fund to another)

I’ll be able to explain this all better when I get a copy of the budget presentation that the board has right now. That is what Pannell is speaking from.

Hudson asked why fund balance had grown and is now going down. Pannell said it is because the district was continuing to collect for construction projects it had not spent on yet, and now it is spending the money on those projects. They were funded by Qualified School Construction Bonds as part of the stimulus package. The district will not be able to get any more of those in the future.

Hudson asks what the district can do now to fund construction projects without a bond issue. Pannell said that is what the district would need (a bond issue). She said the last round of Qualified School Construction Bond money was particularly helpful because it was interest free.

1:10 p.m.

The board is now considering the consent agenda, which includes contractual agreements, donations, permission to advertise bids and submit grants and the student transfer report, among other things.

Board accepts consent agenda.

1:13 p.m.

Board approves the docket of claims.

1:14 p.m.

Pannell will make a presentation on financial statements, for month ending in May. District had received 76.84 of its revenue and had spend 68.94 percent, leaving about 12 percent to go into fund balance, she said.

Board accepts the statement.

Board grants permission to transfer between accounts for the 2013-14 school year. That is an auditing requirement that has to be reflected on the board’s minutes.

The board amends the 2012-13 school year budget to actual expenditures. That is done for auditing purposes.


Assistant superintendent Diana Ezell is presenting amendments to two policies.

District will increase the price of all paid lunches by 25 cents and employee and guest breakfasts by 10 cents.

The second amends the policy on authorized use of school equipment and property to include the Bring Your Own Device program.

Prather asks if the district can search student devices. Assistant Superintendent Kim Britton said the district must have a reason for the search, but with a reason it can. Ezell said if it is pictures, it has the SRO search it.

The board approves both policies. I’ll get more details on the food prices, but that think that is required by a federal law passed a couple of years ago that requires districts to phase in price increases to cover a higher percentage of meal costs. (Districts also get federal reimbursements).

The board also approves the second reading of its dropout prevention policy, which basically reflects a new state law.

1:23 p.m.

Personnel director Jim Turner will now provide the personnel update.

Includes the creation of a new GED teacher at Tupelo High School and 33 personnel positions. There are 14 in-school transfers and nine in-district transfers and 15 resignations.

There is a request for a (float?) cafeteria manager.

Turner said the district is still working to fill three licensed positions but everything else is filled. Board approves the personnel report.

Next is the superintendent’s report. Superintendent Gearl Loden said this is something he’s been excited about.

He speaks of reflecting on the closing of one year and the opening of another and the district’s progress on goals. Last year the district had 109 new teachers and that number is only about 50 right now, he said. He speaks of efforts to make schools safer and more secure and of gains in student test scores.

“Even though they are embargoed, I do believe people will be proud when they open up the Daily Journal and look at our test scores,” Loden said, :I believe they will be among the highest gains in our region. We are not where we want to be but we are moving up.”

(District officials have those test scores but they have not yet been released to the media or the public. I’m hearing that will probably happen in last August or early September).

Loden recommends the district advance its support staff on the salary scale as a cost-of-living increase. They will advance one step on the scale.

“We are trying to keep our salaries competitive so we can recruit employees in our district,” Loden said.

Loden said the way the system works, steps are built in but the board has to approve it. The board approves the cost of living increase for support staff.

Loden said the district’s back-to-school administrative retreat will be July 22 to 24 and teachers will report on July 29. Students start on Aug. 5.

(My computer battery is low so bear with me if I suddenly disappear)

Board will now vote on the awarding of bids:

Low bid for the baseball field is Century Construction for $381,000

Low bid for milk products is $207,042.50 to Barber Milk

Low bid for rental of dish washing machine is to Land Chemical $4,670

District awards the three advertised bids.



Hinds asks the board to consider a change order for Rankin re-roofs. It would be a deduction of $26,000. It takes out roofing of annex building and computer lab. The district determined it can do repair roof and get a couple more years out of those roofs. It would take those out of the contract in order to get the project back under budget and can then do them in a few years when it has problems.

Board approves the change order.


Ezell will bring the district’s school safety and crisis management guide.

It is the same guide as last year, just updated with new dates and personnel changes.

Board approves.


Board goes into executive session to discuss student discipline and personnel.