Tupelo School Board 04.15.14

Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting will begin shortly. Several big items are on the agenda – including a third- to fifth-grade Chomebook initiative and the possible addition of blue turf at Tupelo High School. I also would expect the district to fill principal vacancies at Rankin Elementary and Pierce Street Elementary.

Four of the five board members are present. Joe Babb, a CPA, is tied up with work today on “tax day.” The board will discuss the agenda at this meeting but will not vote. They will vote during the 5 p.m. meeting to be held at Tupelo High School’s Performing Arts Center. The district also will name its Parent of the Year during that meeting.

The district also held a work session this morning. More on it is available here.

Meeting has begun.

Superintendent Gearl Loden will speak about new administrators.

I had to run outside to interview the new administrators. I’ve posted those names on Twitter and will post them here shortly.

Milam Assistant Principal Niki Peel will be the district’s Instructional Technology Coordinator. Baldwyn High Principal Adam Lindsey will be assistant principal at Tupelo High. Tracey Taylor will be Assistant Principal at Pierce Street. Taylor has worked as the district’s grant writer and arts integration coordinator. She will remain as arts integration coordinator. Pierce Street teacher L.V. McNeal will be assistant principal at Milam.

Nettleton Principal Melissa Thomas will be assistant principal at Tupelo High.

Pierce Street Assistant Principal Amy Barnett will be Principal at Rankin Elementary.

THS Assistant Principal Art Dobbs will be principal at Pierce Street.

Now Kim Britton and Niki Peel are making a presentation about the new ChromeBook initiative for grades 3 to 5.

All third- to fifth-grade students would have a ChromeBook to use at school. They would not take the computers home, but there would be enough for each student to have one for use at school.

They are talking about the fact that students will take their new Common Core state tests on computers.

Britton: Students will have to use technology to solve math problems.

They talk at length about the complexity of the new tests.

Britton said the district will align its assessments with the PARCC assessments. She said Peel will work with the district’s teachers to develop good formative and sumative assessments using technology.

Peel: Student learning will have to evolve around 21st century skills. We want to use technology as more than a resource but use it to its full potential to develop those skills. They want to see more project-based learning that goes beyond a single day. A key will be the tools – such as Google aps for education and cloud computing, Web 2.0 to publish infographics and writings.

At the 3-5 grade level, they want to have a blended environment with digital learning.

Professional learning communities.

“Just using technology is not enough,” Peel said. “Our teachers need to use it to learn.”

There will be lots of professional development. A focus on digital citizenship. Peel said it is important for students, even in third grade, to understand what it means to be good citizens online.

Britton said they have to expand some infrastructure and wireless access. They will house the computers at the school. They will purchase Haiku accounts for third- to fifth-grade students to communicate. They also will build on using Google Apps for education.

Loden: This is our greatest opportunity and also our greatest challenge. The issue is alignment. The curriculum we teach next year will be as close to Common Core as possible, but it will not be perfect. It is hard to fly while also building the plane. Once they take the tests for the first couple of years, it will be easier to align the curriculum.

Loden said the computer will give the district a competitive advantage. It will allow the district to take the tests at the end of the testing windows.

He said there will be two different assessments; students will have about 10 hours of test in language and about 10 hours in math.

Loden: “We are excited about this. This will make us or break us in a lot of ways. We are doing a good job teaching and getting rid of those districts, we will have a competitive advantage. If we let those other things get us, we will be average at best.”

Hudson asks if it will be a one-to-one. Britton said she hopes so, but they have to look at budget. They also will look at using other devices or bringing in extra MacBooks to make it one-to-one.

Britton said they have found that when students get the computers in 6th grade, they already have some bad habits. They believe that by having them use the computers earlier, it will help prevent those bad habits. Will help teach proper typing.

Wheeler asks will children still have homework and how will parents help their students with homework.

Britton said there still will be homework. She said the district will have training for parents in how to use Haiku and GoogleAps and how to work with students on the technology.

Loden: At the end of the day, we all agree Common Core will be great but for the first few years…for the parents who struggle with math, we are teaching multiple ways to solve problems which is teaching them to think (but is different than what parents are used to). And then some parents may not be familiar with the technology.

Britton said that if children do not have technology at home, they will be able to complete the assignments on paper.

Board discusses consent agenda, on which it will vote tonight. It includes contractual agreements, donations, grant submissions and permission to advertise for securite camera.

1:00 p.m.

Up next is the Superintendent’s Report. Finance director Linda Pannell is presenting about the dockets of claims and fiance reports.

1:03 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell will speak about some policy changes related to personnel.

Some of these policies hadn’t been revised since 1997. They are separating procedures and practices. Asked to add grandparents to bereavement leave and making a change on flex days. Mostly changing language. They went through more than 60 policies, Ezell said.

Also, the Principal’s Honor Roll and Superintendent’s Honor Roll were changed to reflect the new 10-point grading scale. Principals for B average and Superintendents for A.


1:06 p.m.

Personnel director Jim Turner now will make the personnel presentation.

The district is looking to increase the steps on two assistant principal positions and to increase the steps and number of days worked for one assistant principal position.

Several retirements that equal 199 years worked in education (I think he said 7 retirements).

AP move is to maintain the district’s competitiveness, Turner said.

Turner will present tonight the approval of all licensed staff contracts for next year. He also will present the district’s salary schedule, contingent upon the governor signing the teacher pay law.

1:11 p.m.

Loden is now speaking about upcoming events. AEE luncheon will be April 24, Rotary Scholars April 28, THS graduation May 16 and

Loden: In February, we talked about the fact that they are still trying to get federal approval on the accountability model that we will be graded on this year.

Last year we were given

One thing presented a bill last year SB 2396, embded in the bill is something unique to Mississippi that will create a single state and federal accountability model. This is a big change, Loden said. State always had two models one state and one federal. This bill says you are giving contorl and final say of the state model to the federal government. We have submitted our model to the USDE and waht we’ve been told is that XXX. Also the fedeal goverment hasnt approved holding harmless any states.

The only way this can change may be if you have a psecial session to change the bill. If the federal govenrment says you have not been held harmelss that means the scores you take in May will go live. We are not toallty alinged beaces

I wanted you as the board to be awraew becasue this could be a big change. I don’t bleeive our people in Jackson realize they are giving final control of our model ot the federal govenremnt.

Hudson: I can’t beleive people in Jackson ahve given up control.

Hudson: The implciatins for us is our tests will go live?

Loden: Yes. And some districts are seeing large drops because of the changes in the model. Tupelo is seeing small drops.

Hudson notes this will really hurt districts that have fully focused on Common Core this year.

Loden: We’ll update you. Maybe the federal government will say you are the first state to get a hold harmless provision.

Loden: We have not received official notification that this will happen but it could and I want you to be aware as a board.

Hope is not a good strategy but with the game plan we have, we believe you will see good things happening in the buildings.


1:18 p.m.

Update on the Blue Turf

Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon said on March 27, they accepted bids on the blue turf and track resurfacing.

They are recommending to accept the lowest and best bid which was a little less than $1.3 million.

Hudson notes that the district can pay in bonds and then use its sponsorship commitments to pay for those, as it gets more commitments. It has currently raised 80 percent of what it needs from sponsors.

Hudson: This is a 10-year commitment. I think it is important we have a mechanism in place so board can get information, to be able to follow the money coming in from the sponsors and an update on the account.

He said they need to capture some way to monitor the funding from the pledges as it comes in.

Loden: A good thing about the bond funds is they are not restricted, so the district can use it for other needs, maybe to buy a bond.

The district would use money from Qualified School Construction Bond to pay for the blue turf and track. It will then repay the bond money as it gets money from sponsors for the turf.

Board member Eddie Prather asks what that money would have been used for. Dillon said a large chunk of it would have been for the extension at the Early Childhood Education Center, but those bids came in too high and the district has since decided instead to use classrooms at Church Street School if it expands pre-K projects. That would cost about $300,000, Loden said.

The rest were to help with aging buildings for basic infrastructure and replacing air conditioning.

Loden said the choice was made instead of taking out a loan for the turf, to use the bond money and repay it as they get money from sponsors.

Hudson said he wants to see more about the cash flow and what it means to the maintenance budget in the future.

1:29 p.m.

Diana Ezell is speaking about the district’s agreement with the McDougal Center. The district hadn’t had a formal agreement since 1974 or 79. This agreement is between Tupelo, Lee County and McDougal. Each of the two districts will provide two teachers and use the facility at McDougal. Each district will be responsible for its own students. Other districts can also participate for a per-student fee.

1:33 p.m.

Board will now go into executive session. It will reconvene at 5 p.m.