Tupelo School Board 08.13.13

Tupelo’s School Board meeting has begun. Board President Beth Stone is not present. The other four board members – Rob Hudson, Kenneth Wheeler, Eddie Prather and Joe Babb are.

Board Vice President Hudson will preside over this meeting.


12:15 p.m.

Community liaison Mary Ann Plasencia is making a presentation about grants and donations during the 2012-13 school year.

The district submitted $20 million worth of various requests and was rewarded a total of $400,000 in grants.

Plasencia said the district intends to submit a large grant request again this year, the federal Race To The Top district competition.

The district received $51,200 in donations during the past school year. A lot of them were from PTOs and businesses. It also includes some money from booster clubs.


12:18 p.m.

Plasencia is presenting a draft of the district’s goals for the upcoming school year, as well as proposed measurable indicators.


The draft was developed based on discussions from the board’s June retreat and from comments board members sent to Superintendent Gearl Loden.


“We hope it is a clean draft and that it reflects your discussions during your summer board retreat,” Plasencia said.


There are four goals:

Increase student achievement across the district

Provide a safe, secure and orderly environment in all schools

Attract and retain all stakeholders

Maintain sound financial stability.


For each goal, there will be measurable indicators to track the district’s progress.


Plasencia said several new indicators were added from last year’s goals.


New indicators from last year include: the number of National Merit semifinalists, mentoring of academically at-risk seniors, a baseline safety and security assessment score, workers compensation claims and incidences, discipline practices will encourage a safe and supportive environment among teaching staff, Wellness benefit will comprise 12 percent of district employees, health screenings on an annual basis, district-wide decisions will reflect internal and external output collected periodically throughout the year, reporting of enrollment, withdrawl and average daily attendance, more reports available on an annual basis.


Joe Babb:

I think this is our road map as a board, especially the report card, which is mostly green that reflects where we are as a district.

This is really helpful to see. I think we will get it narrowed down. I appreciate your work on this.


Hudson: This is really well organized. We were really challenging ourselves at retreat about what data was available.

This will be populated as the data comes out.

Some of this is much more objective than others. We struggled at the retreat with how do you capture discipline. It is like smoke. We will continue to do our best to look at it holistically. That is something that is difficult because if you chase one thing, you may be going down the wrong trail. We’ll continue to work on this holistically.

Loden said the district will represent this at the September board meeting. They will also be able to adjust this as the Mississippi Department of Education updates its accountability model.

Hudson: I’m proud of the work that was done at this last retreat. I think we did a great job a year ago and then came back and worked on it more.



Personnel director Jim Turner is providing an update on school staffing. There is currently one open position at each Joyner Elementary, Lawndale Elementary, Milam Elementary , Thomas Street Elementary and Tupelo High School. He said the principals are in the process of interviewing and finding the right person.

Prather: From year’s past, we are in much better shape. What do you attribute that to?

Turner: I think it is dedication of the staff and focus on getting the year started off right. I think we can contribute that to our recruiting effort. We’ve had many more applicants to all of the jobs we’ve posted…I think it is a diligent effort to starting the year off right.

12:35 p.m.

Assistant superintendents will provide different updates on the start of school.

Diana Ezell: It has been one of the best school starts in her career.

The district has 1,018 special education students and 70 special education staff members. It has 1,093 students in gifted and 22 staff members. There are 72 bus routes. Currently 2,980 students are riding the bus, but the district expects about 500 more as parents stop bringing them and send them on the bus.

It rained every day at dismissal last week, she said, but it went very well. There were a couple of hiccups, mostly with bus drivers not being at the right place and they’ve worked on those. All children were where they needed to be by 4:30 after the first day of school.

“I think that was outstanding and I want to credit Mr. Stratton for that,” Ezell said.

Britton will provide an update on grades pre-K through 5. She said it has been a great start and she credits principals and teachers.

This year they prepared for 60 new teachers instead of 109 they prepared for last year. She talks about new teacher orientation and said the highlight was a lunch that paired the teachers with their mentors.

They have worked to reduce interuprtions during the day: intercom interuptions and bathroom breaks.

Elementary teachers are using specials teachers in their classrooms.

If art teacher is not teaching art, she is in classroom helping students learn to read and write in small groups.

She said open houses went well and the district will look at feedback to improve next year. The district has scheduled data meetings with parents to look at where students are and where they can grow.

The district is assessing its summer reading program. It checked out over 200 books to students during the summer.

Babb asks for initial feedback on the distirct’s new flexible grouping plan.

Britton said students will be assessed after the first nine weeks and then will be assessed again every 4.5 weeks. At that point, teachers and principals will review data to see if students need to be moved.

Babb said he has heard a lot of excitement about flexible grouping.


Matthew Dillon will report on secondary schools.

Said the start of school has gone well. It is the best start he has been a part of over a week’s time.

He has a report on enrollment numbers from day 1 compared to first day of school last year. I don’t have those numbers right now. He said the numbers are still very stable across the district.

He said the district is still working on resolving some residency issues.

On Friday, the district will purge its no-show list and then it will have cleaner data. I

He stressed that the 63-percent rule for attendance is important. It is very important for students to be at school for 63-percent of each day so they can be counted on average daily attendance.

Babb said there is a large drop at Rankin and asks if Dillon knows why.

Dillon said he is hesitant on these numbers because they are still preliminary. He said he can have a better answer next week when the data is cleaner.


Dillon is now making a presentation about dual enrollment.

28 students are  in college algebra at first block. There was a parent night on July 23 to talk about dual enrollment at THS with an ICC representative.

An ICC instructor is teaching that college algebra course during first block.

Students are also signed up to take those classes later this year.

10 students are signed up for college algebra for the the second 9 weeks. There are several students signed up for the third and fourth nine weeks too. I didnt catch those numbers but he said there will be enough for two sections of college algebra during the 3rd 9 weeks. There also will be other courses. English comp is one of them.

12:50 pm.

Dillon and Facilities Director Julie Hinds are not making a presentation about summer construction projects.

He said there has been good feedback about the look from the interior work at Carver. He’s also glad to have new fencing there.

The project was completed the weekend before school, he said, but they knew that would happen from the beginning. The football team helped move material from trailers into the school, Dillon said.

Milam Elementary got new flooring. Dillon said it looks clean and they are excited about that. They were able to re-purpose some lockers from Tupelo High School and add those.

Another project is the rubber floor gym at Tupelo Middle. Project is still ongoing. They made some accommodations for the start of school. Dillon said they are happy with the progress they are making.

The last project they will discuss is the Tupelo High courtyard. Dillon said it has been exciting seeing students use it the way it was designed. He said the exterior seating has been full. The picnic tables add 120 seats, in addition to seating on the knee-high wall.

12:58 p.m.

Dillion is speaking on safety and security now. He said the new proximity card system at Tupelo High School should be in place by next week. Teachers will receive their new ID card to open the buildings and it should be fully operational. They are now educating teachers and students about the new system.

The guard tour system that will log the route of school safety officers should also be operational next week, Dillon said.

Also installing buzzer systems at the schools has been successful, he said.


1 p.m.

Executive Director of Curriculum Leigh Mobley is making a report on summer work.

Mobley said the feeling she has standing up here today is so different than the one she had at this time last year. She said she is so confident things are moving in the right direction.

She lists several trainings that were held during the summer. The district has also been able to offer CEU credits through ICC for all of its training.

“We are able to provide enough of those that they never have to leave Tupelo to get those renewals taken care of,” Mobley said.

Goal is to help teachers deliver the best instruction, she said.

1:02 p.m.

The board is now considering the consent agenda. Consent agenda approved.

1:03 p.m.

Finance director Linda Pannell is presenting the claims’ docket. Board approves,

Panell is presenting financial statements for the month ending June 30. At that point, the district had received 84 percent of its funding and had spent 77 percent of what it had budgeted. It will have a more complete picture in October after it closes the budget for 2012-13, Pannell said.

The board accepts the statement.

1:08 p.m.

Ezell will present three

Delete the professional development leave clause from one policy because it is more of an administrative procedure. It doesn’t mean district won’t send teachers for professional development but that it wasn’t needed in this policy, she said.

The other two are discipline policies. One for the middle school and one for the high school.

The changes will emphasize: Any student who fights will spend a minimum of 45 days at the alternative school, any student who uses or is in possession of alcohol will spend minimum of 90 days at alternative school and any student who uses or is in possession of drugs will spend a minimum of 180 days at the alternative school or possibly face expulsion.

Babb asks if there is consideration of self defense. Ezell said yes, there is a notification of that.

Hudson: The change I noted is that for these three infractions, we go directly to step 9.

Board will vote on them separately.

Approves the change to the staff leave and absences policy.

Approves discipline policy changes for the middle school.

Approves discipline policy change for the high school.

All were unanimously approved.


1:15 p.m.

Turner is presenting a job description for a new position, assistant director of security. The board approves the position.

Now Turner will make his personnel report. Board approves licensed staff.

Now board will consider a pay scale for director and assistant director of security. Turner said it is a range and was set based on a lot of research to keep the district competitive. Board approves.

Now Turner will make a report on what university newly hired teachers came from. Turner said he was somewhat surprised. There are 22 universities reflected by new hires. HE said he was surprised that 10 states were reflected in the new hires, that 20 percent of the country was reflected in the school district. The majority came from local universities, in part because of student teaching. “Our principals get to see those teachers in action.”

He said the district cast a wide net in looking for its staff, also trying to find minority teachers.

States represented included Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee, Alabama, Washington (I didn’t catch the others).


Loden will make a report on upcoming items.

He said the district got off to a great start of the new year.

At the next meeting, there will be an update on the state’s new accountability model, Dillon will have a more updated enrollment report, Mobely will make a presentation about the Barton reding program and the online professional development program (PD360). Also there will be a report on the test security plan.

Hudson said he has heard good community comments about the start of school. Two of his children had homework on the first day which is a good sign the district hit the ground running, he said. He said the community is becoming more comfortable with giving feedback on online suggestion boxes and he is glad to see that trust level rise.

Hudson said he has heard about a lot of pride teachers have in the renovations at Carver. “We do it for our students and we do it for learning, but we don’t realize it is good for our internal customers as well.”


Pannell will speak about an advertised bid for classroom supplies. It includes multiple bids on multiple items – pencils, glue, etc. Board approves.




The only thing that has changed form the budget hearing is the ad valorem has changed slightly. At the time of last month’s budget hearing, the city did not have final assessment. The district just got that on Friday.

Pannell said the district’s ad valorem request is down about 13,000 because the district is at its 55-mill maximum. Assessment did not go up much from last year, she said.

The overall request will be down .8 mils this year due to some shortfall notes rolling off. Being mindful of the taxpayers, that will be reflected in the overall request, she said.

Board approves resolution approving the 2013-14 school year budget and the tax request resolution. Taxes will not increase and may go down slightly.

1:36 p.m.

Board will go into executive session to discuss legal updates and a personnel matter.

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  • Tupelo_Guy

    Can you ask how many special education students they have in 3 categories: the deaf, the blind and the mentally impaired?