Tupelo School Board 11.18.14

Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting is about to begin at the Hancock Learning Center. All five board members are present.

The board will meet again at 5 p.m. at Parkway Elementary. It will hold several public recognitions and will vote on the agenda at that meeting. It will listen to several reports and discuss the agenda at this meeting.

Board members held a work session this morning, beginning at 9:30. During the session, they toured three recent construction projects – the maintenance facility on Shell Street, the Tupelo High soccer and track fieldhouse and Joyner Elementary. They did not take any action during the session but used it as a time to see the results of those projects in person. Work at both the maintenance facility – in a building formerly occupied by Tombigbee Electric Power Association – and Joyner Elementary resulted from damage from last April’s tornado.

12:20 p.m.

Meeting has begun. Board approves agenda.

School district recognizes child nutrition director Lynne Rogers for her 20 years of service.

Rogers will recognize two employees for outstanding service: Bonnie Henry (spelling?) and Shirley McGovern (spelling?).

Henry has been working for 17 years at Lawhon. She steps up to help at special functions, Rogers said. Rogers reads letters she has received on behalf of Henry.

McGovern is the cafeteria manager at the King Early Childhood Education Center and has worked in the district since 1995. She began at Tupelo High and moved to King School, also worked at Joyner Elementary. Rogers also is reading several letters on behalf of “Ms. Shirley.”

12:29 p.m.

School board president Rob Hudson thanks them for their service, notes that well nourished children learn better and he is proud of what he sees students eating in the cafeteria.

Now board members will speak about their attendance at the recent Mississippi School Boards Association conference.

Board member Eddie Prather said one session that resonated was about board minutes and how boards structure their agenda. He said he got a better appreciation for some of the things Tupelo is doing.

Board member Joe Babb spoke about a session on the new accountability model. It was helpful to hear the dialogue and see it was a fluid conversation.

Board member Ken Wheeler said he attended a session on school safety, led by someone from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.

Hudson said he enjoyed the day and a half, said it was great to be there with board members and to have the opportunity to see what others are doing as a board. He said it reminds him how fortunate Tupelo is to have some of its resources, compared to others in the state. He said it also helps to learn what others are doing. The session on board governance was a good reminder on how to be more efficient as a board, he said.

Prather said 4-5 years ago, when MSBA recognized top school districts, he felt badly Tupelo was not in that group. He felt proud to see Tupelo in that group this time.

Hudson said in the districts who consistently remain at the top, they have a culture of excellence and he sees Tupelo approaching that.

12:35 p.m.

Executive director of facilities Andy Cantrell will speak about a long-range facilities plan. Two engineers from JBHM – Will Lewis and Charles Lainey (spelling?) – will assist with developing a plan.

Lewis said the study started by documenting existing conditions and identifying most pressing needs. That includes general maintenance, additions for future growth, ADA compliance, energy efficiency, etc.

They looked at the scale of maintenance over the next 20 years.

Basic big picture facts: the district has 1.15 million square feet of space, 650 HVAC units, more than 3,000 doors, 7,300 students and 12 campuses with more than 560 classrooms.

Lainey will speak on some of “the nuts and bolts.” He said Rankin Elementary was the least updated campus. They looked at roof, restrooms, pipes, ceilings, HVAC, flooring, etc. They also looked at the capacity of each building. ECEC and the Middle School are very near capacity in terms of number of students and classrooms being used. There are some instances, Lewis said, where classrooms are being used for special purposes and they can refine that. This can give the Board information if it determines a need to change how its buildings are being used, he said.

They also listed the priorities for maintenance on each campus.

Lainey said the goal is to plan for the future 5 to 10 years out.

Lewis said next steps include looking at priorities and making a maintenance plan over the next 20 years.

Lewis said are in the process of applying to FEMA for safe rooms at Thomas, Joyner, Carver and the high school. They are also planning to apply for other schools. Parkway and Lawndale already have safe spaces, he said.

Lainey listed some priorities:

* At King they can address the front entrance,

* Create a main focal point at Thomas Street and Pierce Street,

* Renovate the gym and courtyard at Milam plus bring the band hall and music room up to date, lab work and improve some windows;

* At the Middle School, exterior drop-off canopy for car riders, lab renovations and music and band renovations.

* At Tupelo High, if they got the safe room grant, would make that the new gym and would convert the current gym to a ROTC room. Possibly a 9th-grade wing addition, tennis courts, future parking and lab and science renovations.

Lewis said this isn’t the final product and some of these are long-term projects.

For the maintenance work, it would cost $34 million over the next 20 years or $1.7 million each year, he said.

Above and beyond that are any additions and renovations. Work could be put into phases.

Hudson said he appreciates they are looking ahead and having a 20-yeaer plan helps to set priorities.

Lewis said staying on top of it helps prevent surprises that reek havoc on the budget.

Babb asks if that $1.7 million is in addition to what the district is currently doing? Lewis said no, it includes what the district already does. Also, he said, it may be too broad and may need to be refined some.

Wheeler asks about what the normal budget is for maintenance. Superintendent Gearl Loden said the district is currently about $700,000 below that $1.7 million number. Lewis said that $1.7 million number may be changed as they refine it. They err on the high side in the initial estimate.

The report does not include Filmore Center.

Loden said one goal the district had when Cantrell was hired was to have a long-range plan. This is the first step, Loden said. They will refine and determine one-, three- five-, seven-year cycles, etc.

1:01 p.m.

Community liaison Mary Ann Plasencia will provide an update on teacher and parent surveys. They will send the teacher survey electronically to all teachers in March. They had a similar one last year and tweaked it this year, Plasencia said.

The parent exit survey will try to track the number of students who have left the district since the beginning of the school year. They sent a link to this survey to about 140 families, Plasencia said, and they have gotten 11 back. It is a short survey and is anonymous, Plasencia said.

They streamline it so the families get it electronically rather than a paper copy.

Prather asks to add a question to the parent survey asking what kind of experience they have had with their counselor, especially at the secondary level.

Babb notes that two of the district’s goals – attracting and retaining stakeholders and having a safe and secure environment – are hard to measure. These surveys help with that, he said, and they Board will closely analyze their results.

1:06 p.m.

THS Principal Jason Harris will speak about the addition of a new Japanese course at THS.

Tupelo High will partner with the University of Mississippi to offer Japanese 1 and Japanese 2. It will project an enrollment of 15 to 20 students.

They would look to offer it as a dual enrollment course with college credit through the University of Mississippi. Tupelo would be the first high school in Mississippi to offer Japanese and would be one of the few in the Southeast. Mississippi does not currently offer high school credit for Japanese and they will petition the state to offer that credit.

Harris said students petitioned the school to offer Japanese. About 50 students signed that petition, he said.

It would be $10,900 a year (I think that’s what Harris said). That would fund the teacher from Japan.

Representative from Ole Miss is speaking now. He said they first approached THS about offering Chinese. He said they take language very seriously at the University of Mississippi. They are very serious about building good proficiency in students, he said.

Over the last few years, they have reached out to high schools in North Mississippi about offering Chinese. They walked in offering Chinese and walked out talking about Japanese, he said.

Organization called ALEX provides a partnership. It recruits the teachers, who are graduate students at a local university.

They started Chinese at Lafayette and Holly Springs High School. Holly Springs has the largest Chinese enrollment in the state. They would be proud to offer Japanese at Tupelo High.

Harris said he believes MDE will approve it as a high school credit, maybe a foreign language or an elective credit.

1:14 p.m.

Personnel director Jim Turner will present an update on exit interview surveys. Turner said they are working to become paperless.

The first phase updated the family medical leave process. Phase 2 is an employee exit interview process.

When someone leaves the district, rather it is voluntary or involuntary, the supervisor will go to the human resource website and complete and employee exit form and hit submit. That will generate a letter that will be emailed to the departing employee asking him or her to share their experiences with the district.

The results come back to a database that can be used to track the information. It will send a report every week on who has left and who has responded.

Turner: That system will allow us to bring to you a picture of what has occurred over the past year.

Hudson: It brings us into the 21 century. And hopefully will help us to gather more feedback.

1:19 p.m.

RTI Coordinator Amy Ferguson and Federal Programs Director Anna Guntharp will present a report on the kindergarten readiness assessment and the third-grade reading gate.

Students who attended the Early Childhood Education Center outpeformed those who had not attended ECEC on the kindergarten readiness assessment test. That assessment was given to all kindergartners at the beginning of the school year to determine whether they are ready for school. The ECEC is the school district’s 4-year-old pre-K program.

Hudson asks if it is a good assessment. Ferguson said it is a well respected test and assesses early learning, literacy skills. It is given by the same company that will give the third-grade reading gate assessment.

Ferguson said the district will also be able to drill down the data for the non-ECEC students to see where they went last year.

Loden said the district compares performance of ECEC students to those from all of the other local child care centers. It uses that data to refine its curriculum at the ECEC.

Two thirds of students who went to ECEC are outperforming the state on the same test, Ferguson said.

Ferguson broke down how third grade students performed on a reading screener. The state has not given the cut points yet for the third-grade reading gate, but Ferguson believes it will be between the 20th and 30th percentile. Then it looked at students who might quality for a good cause exemption.

Across the district 64 third graders are below 10th percentile and 29 are eligible for a good cause exemption, she said.

At 20th percentile rank, possibly¬† 63 retentions. At 30th percentile rank, possibly 102 retentions. They don’t believe it will be at the 30th-percentile but they wanted to look at that to be prepared. Now they are looking at those students, seeing where they are struggling and giving them extra help, Ferguson said. They are tracking that data throughout the year to make adjustments to plans.

They also have run the second-grade data and found they will need more face-to-face interventions working with students in this area.

Assistant superintendent Kim Britton said they have found it is better to retain students at kindergarten, first or second grades than at third grade. Earlier retention is better, Britton said.

Ferguson said that Florida was the model for the third-grade gate and that it spent millions more on it than Mississippi did. She said research on Florida’s third-grade reading gate showed that many of the students who were retained did not graduate, especially those who were retained twice.

Loden: This will not be good for the state. It sounds good, but it has not been thought through.

Guntharp will speak now. When district identified how it is using its Federal Title 1 money, it determined it needed additional interventionists for reading and math.

The amount of money is determined by free- and reduced lunch rate. They have budged assistant teachers as interventionists and tutors at each of their elementary schools. The number of new assistant teachers will vary from three to five for each of the elementary schools.

1:41 p.m.

Executive director of curriculum and instruction Leigh Mobley and ECEC Principal Anita Buchanan will speak about the ABC Mouse pilot.

The pilot through the University of Memphis began at ECEC last year. This year it expanded to kindergarten.

Students must work on the program for 20 minutes each week. It looks at a variety of skills. Teachers can program a plan for each child.

Mobley said they are asking for about 45 minutes in kindergarten classrooms. Also children can get on it at home. She said it is very engaging and relevant and the kids love it because it is fun. She said they are supplementing it with Classworks.

Mobley hopes they will be able to expand the program to first grade. Because of the pilot it is currently free to the district.

1:45 p.m.

Lindsey Alade will present an update on the Farm to School program.

Lynne Rogers said it is a new program in the school, a program of USDA. It introduces healthy food to the cafeteria and introduces students to understanding where their food comes from. Rogers said Tupelo is one of four districts in the state that has a food corps service member working with them.

Some of the current items have been butter beans, corn, etc. Rogers said they would like to expand it and include fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Food Corps will help them make connections with local farmers, Rogers said.

Alade is a native of Spokanne, Wash., and has been in the district since September.

Alade said Food Corps is a national nonprofit to match children with healthy good. Her background is in nutrition.

The national Farm to School Network has three components: procurement (cafeteria), school gardens and education. Eleven districts in Mississippi are doing Farm to School, she said.

There are three school gardens: Joyner, King and Thomas Street. Parkway just got a grant for a new school garden. ECEC is partnering with North Side Boys and Girls Club, which will tend their garden.

On the education piece, they are working with the Joyner and Thomas Street science labs.

A lot of what she has been doing has been making connections with cafeteria staff and cafeteria managers. She brought a taste test of smoothies that use Mississippi grown blueberries, bananas and a secret ingredient she will reveal after Board members try it.

Secret ingredient was spinach.

They are adding new fruit and vegetable each month: squash, zuchini, sweet potatoes blueberries. She is able to get data on how many students did the taste test and how many “loved it,” “liked it” or “tried it.”

She is developing a list of locally-grown farmers they can get resources from. That way the students can connect the farmer with the food.

Hudson thanks Alade for choosing Tupelo. Alade said she has enjoyed her time here.

Davis asks how they can support the program. Alade said right now they are looking for funding for the ECEC garden; she said they have tried a few grants. She said they already have a garden, soil and tools, they just need seeds, which would be about $100. She said Extension Service has done soil samples.

1:58 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell will recognize the food back program. It began with a Sunday school class led by Cathy Grace. This year Junior Auxillary has also helped with the effort.

They provide packs of food for students to take home with them on the weekend.

Serve 175 students in pre-K through 6th grade. Volunteers, led by former Tupelo Principal Kay Collins, prepare the food each week.

Collins: It is further than we are, it goes into the community, and we appreciate the fact that we get to help.

Hudson: We appreciate you filling such a human, essential need.


Rachel Murphree from the finance department will present the ad valorem update. The collections currently are average for this time of year, she said.


The board will discuss the consent agenda. It will vote on it at the 5 p.m. meeting. That includes contractual agreements, donations, permission to submit grants, permission to make a single-source purchase, deletion of items from the asset listing, permission to buy six new buses, student transfer report, readmission of students, overnight field trip request, Title 1 and 3 applications, further exploration of the FEMA safe room grant, approval of JBHM further exploring the facility needs assessment, two change orders on Joyner work and approval for Board members to attend the National School Board Association conference in Nashville in March.

The board also will vote on the superintendent’s report at 5 p.m. That includes the docket of claims.

Murphree is now making reports on various financial reports – bank reconciliation, statement of revenue and expenditures, cash flow statement, September financial report and consolidated fund.

Tuner will now present the human resources report. It includes a job description for an academic interventionist, paid off the assistant teacher pay scale. It is for the position that Guntharp referenced earlier.

2:10 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell will speak about policy revisions. First is concussion management and return to play policy. The change is related to a new law that was passed.

Other revisions are to school day policy (reflecting a new law) and to the policy on the use of school property .

2:12 p.m.

Executive director of facilities Andy Cantrell will provide an update on the safety audit. They will use the MDE safety audit template and use some other areas. Board member Ken Wheeler, who is head of security at the hospital, made some suggestions. The audit would be done at the end of February and would take about one week.

Loden said the district received its letter that it is accredited.

It will hold its reception for retirees tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Loden notes that Christmas break will be from Dec 19 to Jan. 2. Teachers will return on Jan. 5 and students on Jan. 6.

Loden said the district is always looking for a way to retain it best employees. It is working on an agreement on people, maybe assistant teachers, who have a 4-year-degree in something else but want to get a degree to teach or maybe someone who has a teaching degree but would like a degree in something else. Working on an agreement with ICC and University of Mississippi, maybe a scholarship. Hoping to be able to announce it next month.

2:17 p.m.

Ezell will present the discipline review for the end of the first 9 weeks. Number of infractions with bus or without bus over the last three years have been about 200 fewer. Overnight required conferences have gone down from 659 two years ago to 376 to 112.

Last year, they were up in minor infractions but went back down this year in first 9 weeks. Major infractions also went up last year. This year it is down from last year but now as low as 2012-13.

Loden said they changed the ladder which makes it easier to move up the ladder, yet the numbers didn’t jump as high as he thought they would when they made that change.

2:20 p.m.

Murphree will present a resolution from Renasant requesting an internal change for payroll services. The company that provided Tupelo’s payroll services no longer works with Renasant so the resolution allows it to switch to the new company within Renasant.

Loden said that during the next meeting, agenda topics include an ECEC update, secondary transition plan and an athletic update.

Davis notes that she heard New Albany High School brings back graduates to talk about what they would have done differently in high school and she would like to see Tupelo do something similar.

Assistant superintendent Eddie Peasant said that is a piece of the secondary transition plan he will present next month.

The board now will go into executive session. They will meet again at 5 p.m. at Parkway Elementary.


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