Tupelo School Board 05.13.14

Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting has begun. All five members are present. Board will discuss the agenda at this meeting. It will meet again today at 5 at Lawndale Elementary and will vote on the agenda at that point. It also will have several recognitions at the 5 p.m. meeting.

Meeting begins with Superintendent Gearl Loden thanking members of the district team for their efforts following the April 28 tornado. Loden talks about the damage to Joyner School and the efforts to reopen it just one week later, with first and second graders returning to Joyner and kindergartners moving to Church Street.

Loden: Talk about how life can change in a couple of weeks. Regular meeting last month, talking about getting ready to end the school year. Then, 15 days ago we had a tornado…

Loden recognizes School Resource Officer Jon Bramble. The night of the tornado, Bramble gave district leaders a personal escort to Joyner so they could see the damage at the school. Loden notes he did that despite having a lot going on.

I want to congratulate you and thank you for all of the help you provided. We couldn’t get to all to all of our schools.

Officer Bramble gave a personal escort into Joyner so we realized they had issues.

Loden said the insurance company has said them getting there that night saved several thousand dollars and was a big part of them being able to return to school one week later

You had several things going on that night and you still helped us.

TPSD Security: Officer Hatch and Officer Jackson. They were out on the scene and had security 24-7, were there on the weekend.

“I appreciate you guys and all of the support. One of our concerns is people with bad intentions might sneak into the building and damage the building.

Maintenance guys: Robbie…

There were trees all around the campus and 30 minutes later we could walk around the campus. They also did a lot of work to get our kindergarten up to Church Street.

Transportation department: Talk about having to be flexible, Coach Stratton has proven he could be Mr. Flex in all of the things we’ve had to do.

When we had to call school that Monday, your people did a great job of being flexible and getting everyone home. We’ve had three or four hotels, plus the shelter at the Arena where we’ve had to pick students up. The Joyner community has been difficult to get through and we hadn’t had any buses damaged. The transporation crew has done a great job. The first day back of school for Joyner, only three students were absent.

Technology department: Brenda Meriweather and TJ Higgins. Talk abaout people who have put in long hours…They have put in lots of hours at Joyner and Church Street checking technology and making sure it was ready for school to resume there a week after the tornado.

Food department, Lynne Rogers and Ms. Rita.

I’ve learned even in a storm, Ms. Rogers is going to be calm. When you are going to lose a freezer…They did a great job in making sure meals were served the first day back at Joyner even though power was lost at the school in the morning.

Curriculum Team: Their world has changed with kindergartners now at Church Street School. Sylvia has been answering the phone to assure parents students are OK at Church Street School. Dr. Eddie Moore, as a former principal, has helped ensure the school is fully functioning.

Marilyn Russell: Has moved into Joyner as a secretary answering the phone and helping out.

Finance Department: Linda Pannell

They are having to deal with FEMA and MEMA. Has had to put in a lot of extra hours, especially since kindergarten building at Joyner is a total loss. Department has had to put in a lot of hours working on that.

Jessica, over the secretary of operations. Made a lot of phone calls to ensure things were getting done and monitoring the storms.

Assistant Superintendent Matt Dillon (Who is leaving to become superintendent in Petal):

Loden: One thing I’ve learned form the foundation of relationships goes back to trust. With you as an assistant principal and having you hear, I really trust you. WE wouldn’t have Joyner opened back up if it wasn’t for you. I’m going to nmiss you. Thank you.

Loden presents Dillon with a trophy.

School Board President Rob Hudson: Dr. Loden, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate, given all of the potential chaos we’ve had over the last two weeks time, your ability to manage that with your people. We obviously have such a talented team and all of the moving parts, knowing what needs to be done and taking care of it, it is a gift and a blessing in this district. I appreciate you in the chaos keeping the focus in mind and also putting our people first.

Loden: We do have a great team and there is no way to mention them all. The district’s insurance representative Buzzy Mize said they’ve never had a school with that much damage open back up that quickly.


12:36 p.m.

RTI Coordinator Amy Ferguson provided an update on the summer curriculum writing project. This year it will focus on writing units for K-5 English/ Language Arts. Work on math and other grades will be done during the May Institute Training, during the final week of May. They also will develop pacing guides.

Testing Coordinator Lea Johnson is providing an update on the Third-Grade Reading gate.

Hudson notes the pressure those young children feel from the testing. He said there have to be best practices that limit the pressure for those students.

Johnson said there are best practices and the district is looking at those. She said one example is giving the tests on iPads.

Hudson said that is what he is talking about, finding ways where they are testing the students where the students don’t realize they are being tests.

Board member Eddie Prather asks about the turnaround time to get results from the tests.

Johnson said the test on April 10 will be used to set the cuts and the scores. Those results will be back before May 18 so they can determine those who need to re-take the test.


Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell is providing an update on the Community Advisory Committees the district has established this year at each of its schools.

The Joyner group was instrumental in preparing the school for the AEE luncheon and also in organizing volunteers after the tornado.

The Lawndale group saw a demonstrated arts integrated lesson. The Tupelo High group has has students that serve on it. Other schools have also used partnerships with local churches.

Board member Sherry Davis: As a member of the Lawhon Community Advisory group, I think it is an excellent program and it helps keep the community involved and develops partnerships.

Prather notes that the process has helped correct a lot of inaccurate information that has been out there. Ezell notes there was a rumor that the district would no longer have pre-AP classes after it switched to Common Core. She said it used the group to correct that.

12:47 p.m.

Finance Director Linda Pannell will provide an update on the ad valorem tax collections. She said collections have been strong and are comparable to last year.

12:50 p.m.

Pannell will speak about the audit report. She said everything was in compliance with state statutes.

They did have one issue they are continuing to address. Those are with the apartments the district owns through the Hancock Foundation. It is working to address that issue and expects to do so next week. It was given those apartments years ago as a gift.

Pannell also reported on finance reports for the month of March 31, 2014.

12:54 p.m.

Human resources director Jim Turner is presenting the personnel report.

Now he will speak about the district’s recruiting. He notes that the district has interviewed a number of students at historically black colleges and universities. He also given board members a cost-benefit analysis for each of the universities it has traveled to on recruiting trips.

Prather asks about how well the district is able to monitor how many applicants Turner’s department recruits actually interview with principals. Turner said they send a list of potential applicants to principals.

Prather asks about how to ensure the district is interviewing as many minorities as possible.

Turner said a majority of the district’s minority applicants actually come from traditional universities. He said sometimes the visits to HBCUs can be expensive and not draw a lot of applicants, but the district made the decision to do so to make a greater effort to draw minority applicants.

Turner said they also have extended invitations to community leaders to come with them on recruiting trips to help sell the city.

Prather and Davis ask about having a school district job fair. Turner notes that the Oxford School District has been holding one for about three years.

Turner said traditionally the district has had a huge pool of applicants and it would like to continue to have that pool.

Hudson asks about reasons why some past recruiting trips were canceled this year. Assistant Superintendent Kim Britton said they are shifting some schools around, but some of those cancelled are earmarked for next school year.

Loden asks Britton about how many positions the district will have open this year. I didn’t catch the number she said for elementary schools. She didn’t have the number for secondary but said there are more applicants than positions, at this point.

1:07 p.m.

Ezell is speaking about a new policy that will make school buses idle less. Ezell said it will cut pollution and save engines. She said it also may help the district to get grant money.

Loden said there is a grant that will pay up to $15,000 to replace older buses, but the grant says you must have a policy that you will idle your buses less, to cut pollution.

1:08 p.m.

Loden will present several information items. Graduation is Friday night at 7 at the BCS Arena.

The district’s end of the year celebration will be on May 27 at 8 a.m. at the PAC. The school board retreat will be June 26-27.

Athletic Director Andy Schoggin will provide an update on the installation of field turf at Tupelo High.

They are looking at a July 28 completion date of everything with track and field completion. Site Supt. from Hellas Construction is on the field and Schoggin feels good about the progress.

They will use a stock color of blue, not a custom color. That will be helpful if any repairs are needed, Schoggin said.

Schoggin notes the success of the baseball season. Team is going to play DeSoto Central beginning Thursday for the North Half championship. The game that was scheduled for Friday has been moved to Saturday because of graduation. They are looking at Thursday, Saturday and if necessary 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. On the road Thursday and at home on Saturday at 6 p.m.

He notes the success of track, golf, tennis.

Hudson: Asks about the reusing some of the THS football  sod at Joyner.

Schoggin said they were trying to do that, but the timing didn’t work out. He said they may get some credit for that sod at the back end.

Babb: When will we get our first glimpse of blue?

Schoggin: We are in de-construction at this point. Around mid June.

Babb asks about the timeframe for football practice. Schoggin said they can’t officially begin until the MHSAA allows it, maybe Aug. 5, he thinks.

Loden: We have finished our state tests at the high school level with SATP.

MCT is currently going on at elementary level.

On the accountability model, they had a regional superintendents meeting last week. They still don’t have a model. They are waiting for the federal government to approve it.

Loden: Kim Britton will give a quick update on a few activities.

Britton: I’d like to talk about summer booklets for K-6 graders. Development of summer booklets is a collaborative effort of all teachers K-5. They will be distributed to students on May 22. For any student who loses their booklet, they will be able to find it on the district website under news.

Teachers submitted work to Teresa Gregory, who coordinate the effort.

Online they will see the ebook link. There are suggested reading books in that packet. Students will be able to go to eBooks online and use their Classworks user name to log-in. Students also will be able to take AR test online while they are at home and they will be rewarded for any AR test they have taken. Incentives, ice cream parties, class parties.

For students who don’t have technology at home, they will be able to go to any school media center on Thursdays to use the technology to read the books or take AR tests. They won’t be able to use the Joyner media center because of construction but can go to any other school.

749 books read last summer. They are hoping to increase that number significantly this summer by using their technology.

Hudson and Davis ask about a publicity plan for communicating with parents about the booklets and summer reading.

Britton: We think those students will be focused on the prizes. They really want those prizes.

For the first year, we had good participation and this year I think we will have even better participation.

Last year, they had good help from a parent who also worked at a daycare and they are looking to repeat that this year.

1:23 p.m.

Hudson notes the district will vote tonight on handbook changes.

Ezell said TPSD Attorney Kelly Stimpson has thoroughly reviewed all of the changes to ensure they are all legal.

The handbooks all will be available electronically this year. Parents will be able to click on a hyperlink for a policy to review that policy. They will be available on the website and in infoSnap and paper copies will be available at each school.

Babb: From a board standpoint, we all want to make sure parents have the information, especially if there is a policy question.

Prather: Asks about if children can appeal for a hardship case for dual enrollment, to waive the $100 fee.

Community Liaison Mary Ann Plasencia said there is money earmarked for that through the grant the district received from Toyota. Counselors at the high school had identified students who have expressed an interest in taking the class but have a hardship.

Prather said it doesn’t necessarily need to be in the handbook, but he wants to make sure students who need that are aware of it. Plasencia said that information is listed in the THS Wavelink newsletter, although Davis notes that some who really have a hardship may not read the newsletter, own a Smartphone to read it on.

Plasencia said about 12 students last year used that hardship money.

1:32 p.m.

District will discuss a resolution that declares an emergency and authorizes emergency purchases.

It declares State of Emergency related to tornado and allows district to make emergency purchases to preserve a building and bring Joyner into condition to be used for classes.

It allows the district to waive competitive bidding process because of the need to work quickly. It also relates to work that still needs to be done at Joyner in order to have it ready to open school next year.

Board attorney Otis Timms said insurance companies like it because the district saved money by taking steps immediately after the story.

Loden said they saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by working quickly, not requiring trailers.

Loden said the district has $780,000 in expenses to ServPro, Century Construction and Graham Roofing to restore Joyner. It had other expenses from JBHM and other district expenses.


I think I heard Loden said they have a $25,000 deductible on each building. (Will doublecheck that). He said fencing is not covered. Maybe they will get money from FEMA in a couple of years, he said.

He said they are working well with insurance right now, things still being negotiated.

The maintenance facility located behind Joyner will not be included in the emergency, so they will need to go through normal protocol on it.

New sprinkler system and new roof on first grade and second grade wing at Joyner. Kindergarten wing also needs new flooring, other repairs.

Emergency resolution approves the work done for Joyner restoration, the move to Church Street and further repairs at Joyner to be ready for the start of school next year.

1:43 p.m.

Board will enter into executive session. They will meet again at 5 p.m. at Lawndale School. At that meeting, they will have several recognitions and also will vote on today’s agenda.