Tupelo School Board 06.10.14

Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting will begin shortly. Four of the five board members — Ken Wheeler, Rob Hudson, Sherry Davis and Eddie Prather –are present. Board member Joe Babb is not currently here.

Board President Rob Hudson calls the meeting to order. He said Babb is out of town.

12:15 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell will make a presentation on discipline statistics.

Number of bus infractions increased this year, she said, but they anticipated that because they were given an increased emphasis.

Overnight required conferences increased this year: 1,431 this year compared to 1,364 last year. Those require parents to meet with administrators after certain discipline infractions.

Major infractions were 197 incidents this year, down from 201 last year.

Minor infractions: 4,966, up from last year (4,124) but down from year before (5,427)

Ezell: “We anticipate those to change with the way the discipline ladder will change next year.”

Next Ezell will make a presentation on average daily attendance

(I will clean this up, asap. Trying to keep up with it right now).

Overall ADA for this year was 93.64 percent. It was slightly below last year, 94.72 percent. That comes in the wake of the new 63-percent rule from the state auditor’s office. This was the first year it was used. Under it, students who are not present for 63-percent of the day are considered absent. Previously a student was not absent if he or she was there at all.

The ADA is used to determine state funding.

Ezell: “Really overall that (the slight decrease in attendance) is great. With the 63-percent rule, we were expecting a hit and that is not as big of a hit as the other school districts are getting from the 63 percent rule.”

In month 9,May, Tupelo’s ADA was 88.66. A year earlier, it was 94 percent.

Ezell said the increase is because of exemptions.Students get an excused absence, but the district takes a ding under the new 63-percent rule.

Ezell: “The good news is the funding months are months 2 and 3 and we were around 95.14 percent. They year before, we were 95.52 percent.

So we did very well. The principals worked very hard to keep the ADA up.”

Superintendent Gearl Loden: I would like to add that the principals and teachers did a wonderful job working incentives on the months we were working on, months 2 and 3. We focus on all months and try to keep children in schools. Other districts took a bigger hit under the 63-pecent rule (2 to 3 percentage points, compared to about a half percentage point for Tupelo).

Loden: I need to point out to the board, funding is based on either month 2 and month 3 or the whole year, whatever is higher. If we have a flu outbreak in month 2 and 3 (September and October), we can place district in jeopardy because of the exemption policy (ADA will be so low in that month that the district wouldn’t be able to make up for bad numbers in months 2 and 3)

Loden: We will still have exemptions but we need to find a carrot to keep children in schools. (Some sort of incentive)

We are losing over $30,000 a day because of exemptions. If you factor that in and we have a flu outrbreak, you are looking at hundreds of thousands of lost dollars in funding. We want to have exemptions, but at the same time….


12:24 p.m.

Tracey Taylor will make a presentation about grants. This year the district applied for $22,175,058 in grants and received  $426,636. Last year, it applied for $20,937,647 and received 399,603.

Taylor: applied for more money this year and received more money this year

Taylor: Next year we will not have Race To the Top Grant application, so it will go from about 22,000,000 down to about 2,000,000 next year. I want you to know so you are not alarmed next year.

Prather asks about the status for the Toyota grant for next year.

Loden: At this point, we’ve been told not to anticipate funding for the pre-K classroom next year. They did use that money this year to fund one classroom and one assistant teacher.


12:27 p.m.

Tupelo High Principal Jason Harris is presenting an update on the Class of 2014

It received $8,290,831 in scholarships.

54% of the graduates will attend two-year colleges

44% of the graduates will attend four-year colleges

College selections include Naval Academy, Brown, Baylor, Pratt, Ohio State, Missouri, NYC – City Year, Temple, Maryland College of Art. Many are going to in-state schools

415 traditional diplomas and 24 certificates of attendance and four Mississippi occupational diplomas

Of 572 incoming 9th graders in 2010, only 42 did not complete, 17 of non completes could graduate based on Subject Area tests

Harris: Largest number of special education students to graduate in past 12 years.

Historically special education cohort of about 55 students. This year, completion rate of 89 percent. 36 percent received high school diploma. State average is 22 percnent.

Harris: We are working to make it better. It is not where we want but it is a start in the right direction. We’ve been as low as 15 percent, so we are working up.


12:32 p.m.

ECEC Principal Anita Buchanan will review some data from the Early Childhood Education Center.

This year, 12 pre-K classrooms and three special needs classrooms. Total enrollment of 265 students. 32 ELL students – five different languages, Japanese, Chines, Vietnamese, Arabic and Spanish.

Buchahan is talking about the important of cooperative learning for young children.

Free and reduced lunch has been consistent throughout the years. This year, it was about 65 percent.

Now looking at data from STAR program, aligned with Common Core.

By end of K, 21 percent of the children were probably readers. By end of third grade, 85 percent were probable readers.

Now looking at data of students across different grades, by those who attended ECEC and thos who didn’t. It shows that those who went to the distirct’s pre-K generally did better than the general population.

Buchanan: “The primary focus of the EArly Childhood Edcuation center is to look at pre-literacy and those early reading skills.”

Now looking at OWL screening. It shows the progress ECEC students made from the beginning of the year to the end. Big gains in rhyming, recognition of numbers.

Looking at data from Early Prevention of School Failure Test results.

231 students, 130 entered below level and 153 will exit above grade level. Also big gains for minority students.

Minority male: 24 percent entered above age level. 53 percent exited above.

A lot more data. I’ll report more on it later.

Buchanan said the school currently has a waiting list of 12 for next year.

12:46 p.m.

Community liaison Mary Ann Plasencia and Communication Director Kay Bishop will provide an update on marketing and community relations.

They had parent nights at Church Street School – one on gifted ed, one on Common Core and one on understanding your child’s progress.

They’ve done community presentations, giving progress report on where they are, what they are working on, what they’ve learned during the last year. Done them at Kiwanis Club and at churches. Found a good exchange of questions and conversation in the smaller setting.

They had a realtor open house in the fall and plan to have another one next fall, at another setting.

“We know that is an important piece to introduce our school campuses to our realtors in the area because they are gateways for many families to our communities.”


Another area of outreach is the suggestion boxes. They’ve recived 45 between July and May. Most of them are anonymous. They make sure they are quickly directed to the principal or director involved or to Loden. The ones that were not anonymous were quickly answered, Plasencia said.

They’ve had community advisory, teacher advisory and parent advisory councils. Agendas were similar, Plasencia said. They asked teachers and parents to give ideas for agenda items that needed to be raised of clarified.

Wheeler asks if anything stood out.

Plasencia said nothing that she can think of. Calendars and when school starts were of interest to both groups.

Plasencia: I think it is a great vehicle to get information out there and to hear from the front lines.

Back to School Open Houses took place at all schools. Also had pre-registration in FEbruary. Concetrarted on a week in Feburary, gave out school tours. Got information out through Twitter, on website, through emails and text messaging.

Because they are capturing better information on infosnap, they are hopefully reaching people more accurately, Plasencia said.

Prather asks what medium meets the most parents.

Plasencia said probably text messaging and Twitter. The schools’ Twitter accounts have been most effective, she said. Right under that is the electronic school newsletters. Middle and high school go out daily and other schools go out weekly.

Plasencia: We have learned that just putitng something on the website is not enough. WE have to find multiple platforms.

Plasencia: During that smae time frame, we also distributed about 2,500 flirs to childcare centers in the area on K readiness and the 10 things a rising kindergartner should know. Also posted on the website and in electronic newsletters.

Plasencia: WE’ve had an impressive year of fostereing partnerhsips in our community. Some of that happened beuase of the tornado. Most of that happened because we have been working very hard to cultuivate relationshops.

The City of Tupelo has paretnered with them on many levels, through staff apprecition and attending events with education task force and healthy living task force. CVB has worked iwth them. CREATE has helped with car tag campaign, housing money for turf and helping with tornado relieft.

She named several other orgnaizaitons. I couldn’t get them all. Said a lot of those are a new present in the distirct and she is very excited about cultivating those relationships.

Talking about the car tag campaign. Plasencia said they originally sold 300 tags and have then sold anotehr 28, as of yesterday. They appricate the help of CVB in getting it kicked off.

Staff Appreciation Picnic, lots of help from CVB and City. Intended to do it again next fall.

Attendance awareness campaign, will probably do it again enxt year.

Bishop is talking about the redesigned school website. Said Teresa Gregory has been very valuable in that effort and getting information posted and updated.

Bishop said they will announce a new initiative with the website at the beginning of the next school year.

Billboard and print adverstising. HAve had 20 billboards from July to MAy. HAve had magazine ads, newspaper ads. Editorials from Loden in the newspaper.

Been in print media 988 times from July to April. That is a large increase from last year, but they send a list to the media every Monday of weekly events. Bishop siad that has been successful.

WTVA and WCBI have featured the distirct 264 times. Those do not include sports stories.

They have run several progress in action reports in advertisments in the Daily Journal.

Bishop is showing examples of billboards they district has used.

Video marketing.

Annabeth Wyatt has experience in videography and video editing. Bishop said each school has a video segment on its landing page. She said that is valuable to people who are moving here and triyng to learn more about a school. EAch principal has a welcome video.

Video advetrsing at Malco. 50 TPSD asd per day on 10 screens. They’ve changed the ads twice this year. Just sent a new one a month ago about summer programs.

They’ve done the TPSD At A Glance program aired on WTVA and produced by the high school broadcast students. One each month. 30-minute show on the third Saturday of each month. Show it again on Sunday morning.

The THS sports broadcasts have averaged more than 700 viewers per week. Have shown several different sports. Viewers from any different states.


Talking about Honor Roll signs. This year had 4,742 students on the honor roll, 65-percent of the district’s students. It is for K-12 students.

989 students, parents and staff were recognized at school board meetings. Bishop said that is the most recognitions they have had in a year.

The district is now working on a mobile app that will be available through iTunes and Android.

Sent out 1,10 Tweets. Have 1,814 followers. Done 62 videos and had 12,045 views.

3,713 people receive the district keey communicator. All schools also have electornic newsletters.

On Connect 5, have had 74 notification messages.

Prather asks if they do more to publicize the record scholarship amount by THS graduates.

Hudson: It seems we have become much more diverse in the way we are communicating….Said that has been a good thing.

Loden complements the communications team.


1:11 p.m.

Finance director Linda Pannell will make a presentation on ad valorem tax collections. Said the district is on target for this year’s collections.

1:13 p.m.

Board approves consent agenda. Includes contractual agreements, donations, permission to submit grants, permission to advertise and permission to remove and add assets.

Also includes student transfer report, overnight field trip request, renewal of school menu choice procedures, a no-frying policy for Lawhon School, bus transportation for the summer food service program and authorization to close district offices on July 3.

1:15 p.m.

Board approves the docket of claims.  Grand total was $3,907,379.22


1:16 p.m.

Pannell will present finance reports. Board approves.


1:20 p.m.

Personnel Director Jim Turner will give the personnel report.

It includes three new job descriptions: physical therapist, occupational therapist and transition coordinator related to special education department.

The two therapists will be in the special education department and will be working with the students at their schools according to their individual education plans. The transition coordinator will be based at the high school.

Would start with sixth graders, working on a transition plan for students as they complete school.

Amended Personnel report

4 licensed individuals

7 in-district transfers

1 in-school transfer

2 resignations

Classified section: 2 21st Century Tutors, 1 change-of stauts

Personnel Report:

3 new positions, 34 new hires, 3 changes of statues, 10 in-school transfers, 7 in-district transfers, 27 resignations, 2 retirements.

Classified: 3 new personnel, 3 change of status, 1 SIOP instructional, 1 21st century tutor (several others I didn’t get—tutors, part-time communication specialist, Boerner Foundation grant, centralized registration summer workers, summer media center workers, etc.)

40 summer curriculum workers, several special education extended school year positions, etc.

Board votes to accept the three new job positions.

Board votes to approve the licensed staff recommendations.


1:29 p.m.

Assistant superintendent Diana Ezell will speak about policy changes.

One is the second reading of the district’s new policy to reduce the idling of buses. Another deals with the authority for signing contracts.

1:31 p.m.

Assistant superintendent Kim Britton will speak about amendments to the elementary discipline policies.

Britton said they began the process by discussing existing practices and reviewing steps. Found that several steps were repetitive. They edited the steps and narrowed them for each infractions.

They eliminated about 50 steps per discipline policy (K-5 and 6th grade).

“We wanted to make sure our students received the same discipline no matter what side of town they were on,” Britton said.

She notes there is a 20-day probationary period for students who are without punishment for 20 days. She believes that will be an incentive for students to have good behavior. If they have good behavior for 20 days, they don’t move up a step for the next infraction.

There is a little more leeway for K-5 students than for sixth-graders.

Hudson: Step 10 has moved from Out of School Suspension, to they might be placed at alternative school. He asks if there is any history with that.

Britton said it is not uncommon to have a sixth-grader at alternative school. It is uncommon for some in K-5. They have had 5 5th graders at the alternative school, but if child was younger than 5th grade, principal would probably recommend expulsion rather than alternative school. Very rarely does a child that young get to that point, Britton said, but they wanted to be prepared with the policy, not knowing what could happen.

She said students in the elementary schools go to the office for things like continuing to tap on a desk. A fight at the elementary school would not be as serious as a fight at the high school. Because they are small and immature, the principals know how to discipline accordingly, Britton said.

Board approves the discipline changes.


Board votes to ratify the administrative decision on a student discipline issue.


Ezell notes the administrative retreat is ongoing right now. A presenter is speaking about customer service and time management.

Tomorrow, former interim state superintendent Lynn House will speak about managing change. Plasencia will speak about how to use Blackboard more effectively. It is Blackboard Connect, the notification system for parents.

Next two days, curriculum team will speak about lesson planning and classroom observations.

On Friday, Star Brown will work on transitioning from MCT2 to Common Core and on common assessments.

It is for principals and assistant principals.

1:43 p.m.

Loden is talking about the agenda for the school board’s retreat June 26-27. They will talk about indicators for district goals. There will be changes as the state changes its accountability model. They will look at secondary curriculum, elementary curriculum, buildings and grounds, college and career preparation, etc.

Prather notes that a lot of the district’s goals are tied to MCT2. Loden said that with the new model, they will have to change those. Loden said one thing he likes about the new model is they will be able to see how they rank compared to other districts.

Loden said with Common Core, you need two years of data to have a growth residual.



Athletic director Andy Schoggin will provide an update on the new turf at Tupelo High. He has a graphic rendering of it, as well as sample patches on what the turf will look like.

The yellow on the track will be different than the yellow turf in the end zone. It will be a little darker. Schoggin said that is because it is two different surfaces. It is better for the district to use the standard color for each, rather than a custom color. The standard color will be much quicker and easier to replace if damaged. The custom color also would take longer to initially instal.

Schoggin said the color is a little more subdued but he likes it because it will be fiscally responsible.

“What do we feel good about that will meet our standards, be fiscally responsible and maintain performance.”

Turf will have an 11-year warranty and track will have a 5-year warranty.

Schoggin said they have not been delayed significantly with weather because they had a great start. He said it is fairly unprecedented to have 14 straight days of rain in June but they aren’t significantly delayed.

He meets every 10 days with site manager and site superintendent and that person doesn’t have a sense of worry right now.

Prather asks if there will be any open house with the turf before the first football game. Schoggin said he’d like to have something like that, some sort of ribbon cutting. They are looking into that.

Executive director of operations Andy Cantrell is now presenting. Joyner completion date is July 21. Tentative date of July 17 for teachers to move back in.

Maintenance building, about to begin phase 2. Will test for environmental issues and then move forward on relocation.

Pressure washing teams are working at THS. At the high school gym, they will paint concession stand area. Quotes out on making restrooms ADA compliant.

Parking lot at Pierce Street will be renovated.

Several painting projects are scheduled, some have been completed.


1:56 p.m.

Pannell will speak on the awarding of two bids.

Milk bid: want to extend pricing into July for summer feeding. At that point, they will have another bid.

Security camera bids came in over budget. They will have to re-do the specifications and bid again.

Board votes to extend the pricing on the milk contract. Board votes to reject all bids on security cameras.

Loden said at the next board meeting Tuner will present information from exit interviews in executive session. Other items will include an update on the special education program application and the Classworks program.

Board will disucss other possible upcoming topics. Davis said that several coaching supplements have not gone up in years and that the board should visit that topic. Loden said the district studied several of those last year, comparing them to surrounding districts but that it can study that topic farther.

Meeting has adjourned.