Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting has begun. Four of the five board members are present. Eddie Prather is not here.
The board will meet again today at 5 p.m. at Milam Elementary. It will vote on agenda items during that meeting. It will hear presentations during this noon meeting.
Executive director of facilities Andy Cantrell is leading a recognition. He recognize Sherry Childers (spelling) and Robbie Johanson (spelling?) for ther work in aiding the move of the TPSD maintenance department from its facility near Joyner School to the new facility in the former Tombigbee Building on South Gloster.
Assistant Superintendent Eddie Peasant will speak about the 63-percent school attendance law. He said the district lost $220,000 last year due to attendance. He said that money could have funded four extra teachers.
October and November are the months when the state department of education does enrollment counts to determine how much funding districts get under their average daily attendance.
The district will do things to promote attendance during those months.
“Of course we want students to attend year round, every day, but we are putting more attention into those two months since they are the months MDE uses to count attendance,” Peasant said.
Each school has two yard signs proclaiming “Make Every Day Count.” The district has sent out messages to parents, Superintendent Gearl Loden has written a letter-to-the-editor in the Daily Journal about it. The district also has posted the message on the digital billboard at Crosstown. Schools have incentives for students, as well as a district-wide award for the school with the highest attendance.The district also has sent out Tweets about the campaign and advertised it in its e-Newsletter.
The school district’s average daily attendance last year was 93.65 percent. That was down from 94.72 percent the previous year.
Board member Kenneth Wheeler asks why there was a drop.
Peasant said he doesn’t know. He thinks the flu and virus season was probably about the same each year.
Loden said the drop was because of the new rule. In the past, students were considered present if they attended at any point during the day. Under the new rule, they are considered absent if they are not present for at least 63-percent of their instructional day.
Peasant said the district is making a conscious effort to ensure schools are germ free. He said Cantrell has supplied a lot of cleaning supplies to the schools.
Peasant said not all schools put the same emphasis on attendance during these two months.
The 63-percent rule was set by the state legislature, not by the state board of education, Peasant said.
Tupelo High Principal Jason Harris will make a presentation about SAT scores for Tupelo High School. Not a large number of students take it, but those who do are above the state average in reading, writing, math and composite.
THS average composite 1620, compared to 1497 for state.
Reading: state average 497; Tupelo High average 518
Math: state average 513, THS average 562
Writing: state average 487, THS average 540
Composite: state average 1497, THS average 1620
Harris said the ACT surpassed the SAT in tests given last year. He said the SAT just revamped its test and went back to its old model to try to be more competitive.
Harris notes that Nicholas Kaltchenko was a National Merit Semifinalist. They hope he will become a finalist. Would be the first NM Finalist Tupelo has had since 2010-11. He notes a list of commended students, achievement scholars and semifinalists over the past four years.
In recent years, Tupelo High has paid for all freshman and sophomores in advanced classes to take the PSAT. This year it will pay for all freshmen, sophomores and juniors in AP classes to participate in the PSAT. This year, 451 students will take the PSAT tomorrow.
During the 2013-14 school year, THS began a PSAT prep course.
Harris: We are trying to increase our number of National Merit Semifinalists and Finalists.
Board member Sherry Davis talked about working together with the academic competition team students and those in the PSAT prep class. Harris said they have looked to do that, but logistics can be difficult. Davis said when Tupelo’s Academic Decathlon was its strongest, there were more NM Finalists and she thinks there was some synergy between those two.
Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Leigh Mobley and Parkway Elementary Principal Mitzi Moore will speak about a conference they went to for the Edivation program, formerly called PD360.
Mobley said it was a great conference. Six administrators from the district attended the conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Edivation paid for their attendance.
The conference was limited to 400 people, Mobley said, which prevented an overload at sessions. It also had an overview of each session in the morning and then attendees could choose a breakout session to go more in depth. Mobley said that was a good format.
Mobley said she went to a good presentation on assessments. Talked about the need to get students thinking more and venture away from multiple-choice tests.
Mobley said Niki Peel went to a session on cognitive maps and taking thinking maps and transferring them into having students think more deeply.
Moore said because Tupelo is a power user in the Edivation program, the company wanted to get feedback on the program on what could make it more useful.
Moore said she will highlight two sessions she attended. She said the PD360 videos have been updated, they have scenes from real classrooms and they are very brief videos – 2, 3, or 4 minutes. That is helpful for teachers, she said. Teachers can view them individually or in their professional learning communities.
Another session was about Lumibooks (Spelling). It included hands-on things teachers can use. From building a rubric on how a line should look to building a community in the classroom and communicating with parents.
Cantrell will make a presentations on buildings and grounds, safe rooms and long-range projects.
He starts with the new TPSD Maintenance Facility in the old TomBigbee maintenance building on South Gloster. He said that work is complete and they have moved into the building.
They fixed a drainage issue at Thomas Street School.
The bleachers at Tupelo High. It was a safety issue with debris coming from under the bleachers during the game. The placed something across the back to prevent items from falling accidentally or intentionally during the game.
The installed new signs at Filmore Center and at ECEC and some work was done at the One Deville Apartments the district owns..
Cantrell introduces representatives from JBHM. They will talk about FEMA project for Safe Rooms.
FEMA only will pay for 5-square-feet per person. District would have to pay for other costs.
There are five stages that must be met for grant approval. Notice of Intent, pre-application starge, stand-by application stage, etc. Tupelo went through the first three stages during the past six to eight weeks.
The district is now at full application status on four sites. Grants would be a 90-10match.
Tupelo High. Occupancy 3,148. Total cost is 3.7 million. District would pay $892K.
Carver: 383 occupancy. Cost is 519,857, District would pay $99,260
Joyner: Occupancy 595, Cost is $772 K, District would pay $99K
Thomas Street: Occupancy 593, Cost is $769,462, district $98,946
If all four are funded at 90-10, total cost for TPSD would be $1,165,069
Would get 4 structures at $5.8 million for $1.2 million
Cantrell: No way to know if we will get none, one, two, three or all four. Some could be kicked to next round of grants which are funded at 75/25. If all 4 funded there 2,0333,671
Cantrell said the district has two things in its favor in the grant process. There are leftover funds from Katrina and there was a tornado in Tupelo in the spring.
Cantrell said if it keeps moving at this pace, they will get a letter in 6 to 8 months to proceed with design.
Board member Joe Babb asks why those sites were chosen. Cantrell said the high school would be number one because of the large population. Joyner was selected because it was hit by tornado. Loden said others were chosen based on location and age of the building. He said Parkway and Lawndale are the newest schools so they have a concrete slab above the hallways and they are safer. He said the district would like to get grants on other campuses in the future but it only could afford to apply for these four right now.
It will depend on how many applications MEMA gets across the state, but the emphasis is on North Mississippi because MEMA has funded many projects in South Mississippi recently because of Katrina.
Loden notes the high school site could be used for a new gym. He said the school needs a new gym for larger occupancy.
He said that after hours the facilities could be opened up to be used by community members as a shelter.
Finance director Linda Pannell speaks about ad valorem collections. Said the district’s audit will be coming up soon. She said that the district was cited last year for something involving its bonds but the district has gotten an AG opinion that its process is correct.
Pannell will speak about financial reports. All bank statements have been reconciled, she said.
Human resources director Jim Tuner is presenting the personnel report.
Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell will speak about policy updates. Majority of the changes were splitting the policy and administrative procedures, she said.
She also is presenting revision on KJA, policy on school volunteers. Had to correct times the district is open for background checks and to clarify that those who go on field trips must have a background check. It also separates policies from procedures.
Hudson asks what changes were made.
Ezell said it added statements. District has right to control who may supervise on field trips and gives the right to establish administrative procedures. It also changed the times in which background checks are available and clarifies that those who go on field trips must have background checks.
Davis asks how long background checks last. Ezell said those background checks remain good through the years unless there is a change in their status. Assistant Superintendent Kim Britton said they use an electronic system that flags those who have had changes and who need to re-do their background check.
Davis asks how far in advance teachers need to turn in the names of chaperones to have time to check they they have gotten their background check. I didn’t fully understand the answer. Ezell said something about two weeks, but also something about when they give the names to TPSD security, they can get results back in about an hour, way down from the 6 to 8 weeks it used to take.
Background check costs $35 for parents, Ezell said. Loden said the district covers the cost when it runs them every year.
Athletic Director Andy Schoggin is presenting an update on athletics. Fall sports are under way now. Don’t have GPAs yet. Goal is to have teams be recognized as scholar athlete teams.
101 players on varsity football team, up from just over 80 last year.
He said two players have been selected to Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game and coach Trent Hammond was chosen as defensive coordinator. Other players were selected for MS North-South All-Star Game.
Tupelo will host the state swim meet on Nov. 1 at the new Aquatic Center. Schoggin said it will be good for the ecnomy and good way to show off community. They are carrying about 70 members on their varsity.
Cross country has done really well at out-of-state competitions. Championship will be Nov. 8 in Clinton. The teams are in good position and they also have one of the top male and female runners in the state.
Softball season ended last week. Had members selected to the All-Star game.
Band state regional festival was delayed because of rain. It has been rescheduled for this week with 28 to 30 schools scheduled to come.
Schoggin said the turf has done well. Even with all of the rain, they will not have to cancel 7th, 8th or 9th grade games like they would have to do on grass.
The winter sport season will begin soon with basketball, soccer, bowling and power lifting.
On Thursday, it is senior night for volleyball.
Britton said the school district has established an employee of the month program. The middle and high school already had their own programs. They will establish a uniform district-wide program to recognize someone who consistently goes above and beyond and has a positive influence on others.
Anyone can nominate an employee. They can write a narrative on why they nominated that person but should keep it a surprise, Britton said.
Ezell speaking about healthy kids campaign. Posters in all school restrooms. They have placed wipes and lysol in every classroom and teachers and custodians reminded to wipe door knobs, tables, chairs, etc.
Ezell said school nurses are aware of the viruses that are causing caution around the country.
Loden said the board does give the schools a special line in their budget for items like hand sanitizers and wipes.
Loden: We have a proactive game plan in place.
Loden: I can’t thank the board enough for allowing me to go to Lamar Superintendents Academy in Texas. Roughly 25 superintendents. He is the only one from Mississippi, several from Texas and one each from Alabama and Oklahoma.
Last week, the academy sent him to Columbia University for a discussion. The big focus was the context of the schools and how the East Coast developed their schools 100 years before others. It looks at funding mechanisms. In Harlem Schools, local foundations are paying for a second certified teacher in every room and an assistant.
Looking at context, the schools there were very rich with supplies and materials but technology wise and arts integration wise we are ahead of them. There was a different dynamic. School sports did not have as much value.
Loden: “I enjoyed the trip. I learned a lot. It helped me to see where we need to be as a state….It was very eye opening and I can’t think the Board enough for letting someone who had never been to New York City visit it and see what they are doing in their schools there.”
Loden: On the accountability model, Florida developed our model and is redoing their model now. Other states are saying ‘A to F’ doesn’t work. So if I had a crystal ball, I’d think in three years we will be changing our model again.
Loden is speaking about upcoming events.
Mississippi School Board Association Conference is Nov. 10-11 in Jackson. The National School Board Association will hold its conference in Nashville March 21-24.
They have a work session scheduled on Nov. 18. Instead, they may meet at the Hancock Center and then go to Joyner tour it and tour the new maintenance facility and the new high school athletic facilities – including the new dressing facility for cross county, soccer and track and to look at some of the older facilities and their needs. He said it would be a mobile work session with no action taking but a good way to see what is happening.
Loden said it will be a full meeting in November, but some of it may have to be pushed back to December.
It will include an update on ABC Mouse (a program they are using at ECEC and in kindergarten), Engrade, Farm to School, Food Packs, Transition Plan from middle school to high school, a Japanese course that would be the first in the state.
Davis said she would like to discuss handwriting. She saw that Florida is adding cursive writing back to its curriculum and that a lot of research has shown handwriting helps with memory more than keyboarding. She would like to hear elementary principals discuss that.
Babb said there is a committee working with Mary Ann Plasencia on school climate issues and will make a presentation next month or maybe in December.
Board will go into executive session. It will also meet again at 5 p.m. today at Milam Elementary.