Tupelo School Board: 02.17.15

Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting has begun. All five board members are present. The board also will meet at 5 p.m. at Pierce Street School and will vote on agenda items then. This meeting is for discussion of items.

12:20 p.m.

Tupelo High Principal Jason Harris and Tupelo Middle Principal Kristy Luse are each thanking school board members for their service as part of Mississippi School Board appreciation month.

Now Joyner teacher Jodie Thompson speaks. Two young Joyner students bring a gift to the board members.

Administrators are recognizing administrative assistants Jessica Graves, Sylvia Teasley and Ginger Towery for their work.

12:30 p.m.

District now will have a presentation on its long-range plan. Will cover the next 5, 10, 20 years, said Executive Director of Operations Andy Cantrell.

JBHM’s Will Lewis and Charles Laney will speak about the district’s greatest facilities needs.

Study looks at maintenance, additions for future growth, ADA compliance, outdated technology and energy efficiency.

Conducted site visits to every facility. Met with administration. Had workshop studies with principals, stakeholders to ask about needs they see.

Using that information to prioritize things we’ve identified as needs. In the process of defining a more thorough definition of those scopes in a short-term and long-term manner. 1-7 years and then 7-20 years and look at how work may need to be phased.

3 categories:

Energy efficiency, security and renewal/ upgrade.

On energy efficiency: Many HVAC units have outlived their normal life span; roofs and ceilings can be better insulated, LED lights/ sensors, windows can be replaced to be more efficient.

District is working to take advantage of incentive programs available for energy efficiency.

Security includes cameras

Renewal/ upgrade includes: painting, doors, floors, canopies, classroom additions.

JBHM’s Charles Laney now will go campus by campus. Notes that this effort began in November.

Near term needs

ECEC was built in 1961. Needs include window replacement, roof replacement, HVAC, painting, door repair and replacement, LED lights, classroom addition (maybe 6 classrooms, seeing where growth need is).

“We are pretty much looking at doing a total overhaul there,” Laney said.

Rankin was built in 1952

“Out of all of the schools, it needs the most work,” Laney said.

Windowws, roof, HVAC, doors, painting, security camera, floors, ceiling, lights. Structural repairs, as you walk in the door, there is a half-inch gap between classroom walls where you can look from one classroom into another. They want a brighter dinning room. Doing lights, painting and ceiling should help.

Lawhon built in 1926. Windows, HVAC, floors, painting, security cameras, ceiling, HVAC lights, new ceiling in the gym (pieces of it are falling)

Pierce Street built in 1967. Security cameras, ceilings, LED lights. Creating a focal entry point so people know when they pull up in parking lot, know to go in side door rather than cafeteria door near parking lot. Similar to Rankin’s entrance. Playground resurfacing.

Thomas Street. 1964. Security, ceilings, lights, entry point, paving of parking lot.

Lawndale. 2001. Security cameras, LED lights and sensors. A building connection so kids can stay inside, about a 25-foot connector so kids don’t have to go outside.

Joyner. Recently worked on and redid that school (After tornado). Some doors on second grade wing they were not able to replace under insurance moeny.

“After we replace the doors and add cameras and film, it will pretty much be a new school.”

Laney: wish list is more media center furniture and a circulation desk in there.

Parkway: Security cameras, film, LED lights, some carpet that needs to be replaced.

Filmore: Out of all of the roofs, it is the worst off. It has active leaks. Roof replacement, ceiling replacement, LED lights. Asked for some cubbies to be placed in a room, if students needed to be isolated there.

Carver. 1937. HVAC, security camera, LED lights, replacing the canopy. If they get the tornado shelter, students wouldn’t have to walk as far to get to the gym/ multipurpose room.

Board member Sherry Davis asks how old the HVAC units are. I think Laney said the average is 10 to 15 years. He said the high school has some original units that are about 20 years old.

Milam. 1927. There have been some additions, but original structure was 1927. Windows, roof, HVAC, security, film, ceiling, LED lights. Wish list was a new canopy system on Robbins Street to help with students getting picked up.

Middle School: Roof, HVAC, security film, LED lights. A classroom addition.

Laney: In orignial assessment, calculated maximum students you can hold in the building. At the middle school, with current growth, wouldn’t have enough classrooms in 2-3 year.s

Middle School wish list was a new entrance sign and repairs to the round building from water issues.

High School:

Laney: EVeryone thinkds of the high school as brand new. On the inside it has been well taken care of but it does have some issues. They have done some roofing work but would need to replace more of it.

High school has the most old HVAC units. Also needs security film, lights. Fence along Natchez Trace.

Looking at replacing bleachers in gym with fixed bleachers. Would add 300 to 400 seats.

Laney: Keep in mind, this is just general maintenance.

From there, took a step back and talked about what if, in 20 years, we had 3,000 students at the high school. How would we accommodate that. Big picture items.

Applied for grants for safe rooms at Thomas Street, Joyner and Carver. Wants to apply for future grants at King, Rankin, Lawhon, Milam and Tupelo Middle. Pierce Street and Parkway would be close to city/ community shelters. Parkway and Lawndale have hardened concrete in their ceilings.

King: New front cannopy

Milam: Gym renovations, second floor in gym, renovate those classrooms; courtyard renovations; lab renovations; renovate second floor above music suite – 10-15 classrooms been closed since 1999. Renovate for additional space.

Midde School: Dropoff canopy, band/ music renovations, lab renovations

High school: Space for ROTC, moving weight room downstairs to get more shifts, new HVAC in gym, possibly new 9th grade addition, tennis courts, lab and science room renovations

At middle school, there is a place on front for classroom addition. Possibly 6-8 classrooms, two story.

At Milam, renovate rooms above music room. Adding a classroom addition, would still allow you to keep court yard and parking.

Will Lewis is speaking now, summarizing the report.

The overall goals of the process are to create a safe and secure environment for students and create facilities to attract and retain all stakeholders and create a uniform high level of quality at all campuses, so there is no perceived better school compared to another. Also get energy efficiency, improve operating costs. Provide educational spaces needed today and for future growth.

Lewis: Those are our goals and we are hoping we will help you accomplish that.

Board President Rob Hudson: That you for that level of detail. We needed to get to this.

Laney: Evolving plan, not saying this is what you have to do. Lewis calls it a framework.

Prather asks if HVAC work can be done during summer.

Lewis said yes. You would do roof and HVAC work together. Start it in November, December, put out to bid, reward in February or March so they have time to order equipment so the day schools close they can start.

Board member Ken Wheeler asks if there is a priority list. What would be the first project that they would do.

Laney said they are still reviewing that. Want to be sure they don’t do too many projects in one year that they can’t be completed during the summer.

Wheeler: I was thinking like leaky roofs at Filmore.

Lewis said that is definitely number one on the list, roofs, also old HVAC units at Tupelo High

Wheeler: For board’s understanding, we are basically trying to understand we have older buildings that need to be salvaged.

Laney: That is stuff you are going to have to do at some point. Lights, you have t-a(?) bulbs that are energy efficient but they are 7-8 years old so you will have to either replace bulbs soon or get LED lights.

Lewis: Before we dove off into specific needs (narrowed down the list) we wanted to make sure we went over everything that is needed.

Said the short-term needs all need to be done, some of them need to happen in year 1 rather than year 7.

They have identified $8.5 million of roofing work that will need to be done in the next five years.

Loden said the district’s marketing department has sent surveys. Said there is tight alignment between what teachers, principals and parents are saying. One big issue is safety, more cameras.

Another safety issue is buses and Diana Ezell will speak about that in a moment.

Hudson: It helps me as a board member to get information from a variety of experts so we can see what we need to do.

1:15 p.m.

Assistant superintendent Kim Britton is speaking about technology. District needs to replace student computers. The original MacBooks are now about five years old. It replaced the teacher MacBooks this year. For student computers, district wants to instead use Chromebooks which are about half as expensive, about $400.

Plan is to replace the MacBooks at the middle school with Chromebooks next year. Would then use those MacBooks as extra books for the high school. Then would follow a schedule, replacing the high school MacBooks with Chromebooks the following year, adding Chromebooks for K-2 schools and then replacing the Chromebooks and Milam and teacher computers after that.

Will cost about $3 million, Britton said. Would also need to update wiring and access points at the schools, an additional $2 million.

Loden: All of the MacBooks were purchased at one time, so you ahve 4,000 MacBooks that were old at one time. They are trying to get on a schedule so that they replace about a quarter of devices each year. Dependent on funding from the state.

On the Chromebooks, Britton said students can use the cloud, can store their information on the cloud and don’t really need the MacBook.

Hudson asks about integration between Chromebooks and teahcer MacBooks.

Britton said that isn’t a problem. Teachers use the cloud also.

1:21 p.m.

Assistant superintendent Diana Ezell is now speaking about the need for new school buses.

23 buses are 15-22 years old. Oldest buses in the district are two 1993s. To keep fleet up, need to buy six buses a year. Over the years haven’t been able to do that.

To get fleet to where all buses are 1-11 years old, will require 40 buses over next four years. Average cost is $85,000 a year.

Loden: One of the greatest safety hazards we have today across the state is this, our buses. He said some districts are on 1988 and 1989 buses.

There are some safety features in newer buses that weren’t available then.

District receives $224,000 to maintain buildings and buy buses, Loden said.

All of the buses are diesel, Loden said. District is looking into propane, natural gas to see what research says.

About $3,000 students ride the buses every day, Loden said.

“This really worries me,” Loden said, noting that with funding they are not able to provide buses they need every day.

Ezell notes the district has great mechanics taking care of buses, but 1993 buses are hard to start when it is 9 degrees every day. Loden notes the district benefits from city maintaining its roads. Noted that Transportation Director Lee Stratton has done a great job and has mapped routes to have more right-hand turns than left turns to save money.


1:28 p.m.

Britton is talking about shifts in education. First is from process writing to writing on demand.

Used to be processes writing, follow a formula, were assessed without a time limit. Today, students need to write on demand. Test tells them to read two passages, cite them and answer a prompt. They may have to compare and contrast them or identify a theme. The writing may be about science or history, they may have to use research skills and there is a time limit. Have 75 minutes to complete, instead of being given all day. Would have two parts and part B would build on part A.

The second shift is mathematical thinking. In the past focused on computations only. Concepts were grade specific. Answers were either right or wrong. Taught concrete skills early and abstract skills later.

Now: move toward more thought processes in math. Teach difficult concepts sooner, make abstract lessons concrete.

Britton shows how algebra is introduced in second grade. Uses shapes to represent equation, being to introduce them to the concept. Maybe when they are introduced to those concepts later, will be more familliar.

“In the classroom, this shift has been difficult for us,” Britton said. “Less teacher taught and more student thought.”

Technology is another shift. Assessments are now online and are timed. Students developing core keyboard habits at an early age.

Young students having a typing game, learning to use keyboard skills early.

Shifts are constant, Britton said. Notes they don’t know much about what to expect on the PARCC test, that they don’t know what test Mississippi will use next year, that they don’t know what is happening with the third-grade reading gate.

Hudson asks what is driving these shifts.

Britton said some are test driven. Moving from teaching taught to student taught is just good practice, she said. They want the students to be thinking and to take the curriculum and make it their own.

Davis (who teaches at ICC): What we are finding is that students can’t communicate any more. Need them to learn to problem solve. It is a great shift.

Britton: None of these changes are without growing pains and they are not complete. Trying to find a balancing act, there is still a place for past skills like processed learning.

Prather asks if there is enough professional development to help with the shift. Britton said yes, she thinks so. Said district has spent a lot of time training teachers before this year and they are planning more professional development at the May Institute and at the beginning of next school year.

Loden: They are still monitoring the third-grade reading gate. Notes it is a moving target because they don’t know what the cut score is, hard to know which students are at risk of being retained. Also a struggle since test to be used for the reading gate will change next year.

Accountability model is changing too. District will be held accountable for scores from May, but those scores will not be available until November. It will be be hard to use them to change instruction if scores aren’t there until that late.

Loden: We have a good game plan. Will our scores improve? There is no way. They will drop. But we are not being compared to our scores from last year, we are being compared to other districts. Will we drop less than them? Kentucky dropped 30 to 35 percent when they went to Common Core and New York about 40 percent. Kentucky’s scores still have not recovered.

Loden: We feel like we have a good game plan overall.

1:45 p.m.

Finance director Rachel Murhpree is speaking about ad valorem tax collections.

1:46 p.m.

Board discuses consent agenda. It includes contractual agreements, contracts to accept, donations to accept, permission to submit grants, permission to accept a grant, permission to award E-Rate items, deletion of assets and designation of ‘applicant agent’ for FEMA and MEMA. Board will vote on the consent agenda at tonight’s meeting.

1:48 p.m.

Murphree is speaking about claims docket and finance reports.

1:51 p.m.

Human resources director Jim Turner is now speaking about the personnel report.

1:53 p.m.

Ezell will speak about new policies. One gives superintendent authority to pay bills prior to board approval. Board attorney Otis Tims said law allows you to do that if you have a policy on the books for it. Tims said they needed a policy for it, allows payments up to $250,000. Board would still need to approve the spending at its next meeting.

Loden said with the board meeting once a month, this would allow it to continue to cut checks every week. This is a first reading so policy couldn’t be approved until next month.

1:55 p.m.

Next policies are related to normal policy review. One removes awards district is no longer giving out. The other changes the policy to note the change from two school board meetings per month to one. Another removes procedures and unnecessary wording from a policy.

Other policy removes publishing the budget in a newspaper ad; instead it will be published on the district website.

1:57 p.m.

Turner will make a presentation about the district’s job fair. A few months back, the district looked at the possibility of entertaining an employee career fair.

April 1 from 3-6 pm. at the Hancock Leadership Center, district will have a career fair. Goal is to reach applicants, establish brand name and make administrators accessible.

Would be the district’s first such event.

2:00 p.m.

Ezell now will speak about next year’s school calendar. She polled area school districts and they all have a similar start date, within one to two days. Some are starting on Aug. 5 and some on the 6th. Tupelo would start on Aug. 4. End date of May 20 also is similar to others.

Two changes from last draft. End date moved from May 18 to May 20, which also is graduation. To do that, they added two holidays, the Friday before Christmas and President’s Day.

Loden: Corinth is looking at its calendar, for a possible year-round type calendar. It would be nice to look at that in the future. Notes Districts of Innovation bill before Legislature would allow that flexibility. Key is flexibility for testing, so you are not at a disadvantage if you take tests after fewer instructional days than those on traditional schedules. Loden said it would be something worth reviewing.

2:04 p.m.

Finance director Rachel Murphree is speaking about the a proposed extension for the district audit contract. They have not yet received a draft report from the auditors. The district still will be able to meet its deadline for the state, she said.

2:07 p.m.

Loden notes upcoming dates: district’s safety audit, Mississippi School Board Association conference and National School Board Association conference.

2:07 p.m.

Eddie Moore will speak about items to watch from the state legislature.

Three bills: HB 385, contract with single entity for assessments, prohibits PARCC from being the entity for assessments. Ammendments have been added. One of them would allow PUL aliance to partner with ICC for a dual enrollment program. Moore said they are excited about that and that it would really help the district with graduation and career prep.

ANother HB authored by Gunn calls for seperate state and federal accountability models. Moore said district feels this is necessary.

SB 2161, would replace CC standards and establish a 24-member commission to recommend state board. Has an ammendment that would combine state and federal accountability models.

At the same time, MDE is seeking RFPs for new assessment.

Moore: House calling for seperate system, Senate is calling for combined system and MDE is calling for an assessment based on last year’s standards. WE really don’t know wehre this is going.

SB 2695- sped voucher bill from Sen. COllins. 500 students per year for 5-year pilot program. SEnt to House. Calls for $7K voucher to school of choice. Moore says Tupelo is awarded about $5,700 for these students, so there is some discrepancy. Moore said he doesn’t know what will happen in the house.

Other bills: teacher’s assistant pay raise, not requiring passage of subject area tests to graduate.

Charter school bills: HB and SB version are similar. What bothers Moore is that payments based on projected enrollment, local ad valorem tax, per pupil spending from MDE….

Third-grade gate bill died in committee but was kept alive in another bill. Gives a one-year waiver for all third-grade students who don’t pass test. Passed to the senate today.

Moore: I think the Senate will take that up and run with it too, but that is my opinion. Those 18 bills are ones to keep an eye on; they can change any day. It is an ongoing process.

Question about discrepancy of funding based on average attendance or average membership. Loden said there some advantages for Tupelo to base it on attendance since attendance is higher.

Loden: On Common Core: Looks like commission will recommended tweaks to Common Core, will change name.

They are just standards. At the end of the day, our teachers are choosing the content.

The standards are the end result. You ahve community standards too. Our teachers will choose things that are appropriate for Tupelo, Mississippi that we know our parents will buy into (different than what may be used in other states).

Another bill he is concerned about, unified accountability model, allows feds to be in charge of the state model. There are a lot of unintended consequences. Loden thinks it should be a separate model, several other states have separate models.

Loden: I think we are misleading people about Common Core. We need to separate the model.

Loden: Next board meeting in March would be the organizational meeting. They will have a work session in April to tour some of the facilities needs in the district.