TPSD School Board 10.08.13

Tupelo School Board meeting has begun. All five board members are present. The board will hear presentations and reports at this meeting. It will meet again at 5 pm. at Carver Elementary and will vote at that time.

Board President Beth Stone announced that she will step down from the board in order to spend more time with her family. Stone made an emotional speech about her time on the board, and thanked Superintendent Gearl Loden, current and past board members, Administrative Assistant Patrice Tate and Board Attorney Otis Tims, among others. She said she is proud to see the district on a solid foundation.

Board member Eddie Prather and Loden thanked her for her service.

Stone, 47, has three children at Tupelo High School, including a senior. She said the school district has been her top priority for the last three years and she felt like her family needed to be a bigger priority.

A former teacher, Stone said she might be interested in teaching again one day, but she doesn’t have any immediate plans.

Mayor Jason Shelton will need to appoint Stone’s replacement and the City Council must approve that person. The School Board also will need to appoint a new president.

Community Liaison Mary Ann Plasencia made a brief presentation about the district’s goals and the report card it has devised to measure its progress on those goals.

Athletic Director Andy Schoggin made a presentation about the district’s athletic department. (I was filing a story about Beth Stone and was not able to get blog from his presentation).

TPSD testing coordinator Lea Johnson is now speaking about the federal accountability model.

Next year, the federal targets and state targets will be combined under the state model, Johnson said.

(Sorry I got pulled out by a phone call I had to take. I missed the end of Johnson’s presentaiton on the accountability model and an update by Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon and Johnson about the ACT).

Finance director Linda Pannell made an audit update report. Pannell said the district will close its books for the 2012-13 school year on Oct. 15. It will begin undergoing its audit shortly after that.

Teresa Gregory is making a presentation about the district’s new web design on its website,

Among its features is a link to the district’s athletic department site and to its YouTube channel, which will have several videos posted each week.

Administrative Assistant Patrice Tate notes that the website also shows the school board agenda with links to all of the reports the board receives in its packet, except for student and personnel information that needs to be withheld. She said that is more than what most districts provide and that she thinks that transparency is important.

Gregory notes other new features of the website.

Pannell will talk about the financial reports, one month into the school year. They had received about 13 percent of their budget and had spent about 10. She said it is good the fund balance is growing because the district is heading into the months when it will spend its fund balance until it receives its taxes after the beginning of the year.

Most of the people making presentations today are telling Stone about how much they appreciate her service. That includes Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell who is now making a presentation about new board policies. One of them is to reflect language of the state’s new third-grade reading gate law.

Ezell said the district will have several interventions for students to identify and help them before they got to that point.

The other policy clarifies language in the policy for classified staff vacation and holidays.

Personnel director Jim Turner is now presenting the personnel report.

Superintendent Gearl Loden will make a report of upcoming events. Those include the Mississippi School Board Association fall conference and that National School Board Association conference to be held in New Orleans.

The district has submitted a federal Race to The Top grant and expects to hear back in December. He said the district is in the process of applying for one of Mississippi’s new early learning collaborative pre-K grants.

He said the district is now using an electronic system to do background checks. The system also will do new checks annually of those in the system to see if there are any new red flags.

Loden said the district will have a guest editorial in the Daily Journal soon explaining how attendance impacts funding. A new state law requires students to be present for 63 percent of their academic day to count for average daily attendance.

Thus far, the district has lost 2,801 days because of students being check out early this year. That is about $70,000 the district is losing, Loden said. TPSD has seen about a 2.5 percent drop in its ADA because of the new law. However, Loden said, all districts are seeing decreases and if Tupelo can remain at the top of the state, it might still see more funding.

The board is now reviewing its list of dates for next year’s board meetings.

Loden notes future agenda topics. It includes the district’s technology plan, a public relations/ marketing update, a presentation about plans for eBooks in its library and an update on the new NMMC online portal to be made available to its teachers.

The next meeting will be Nov. 19 and will start at 9 with a work session that will provide an update on buildings. It also will include a Hancock Learning Foundation meeting before the regular board meeting at noon.

The board will go into executive session for a litigation update and a discussion of student discipline matters.