Tupelo School Board 06.09.15

Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting is about to begin. All five board members are present.

Among the items on today’s agenda: Marketing Communication Report/ report on the Tupelo High School accreditation external review/ 2015 Senior Class update/ average daily attendance report/ report on student recruitment and student withdrawals/ year-end discipline report/ personnel recruitment report/ third-grade gate update, request for renewal of the “offer vs. serve” meal option/ new job descriptions for director of professional development, assessment and compliance/ revised job descriptions for community liaison, coordinator of instructional technology and director of school improvement, recommendation to award bid for etc.

Board President Ken Wheeler calls the meeting to order. The board approves an addendum to the agenda.

Supertintendent Gearl Loden recognizes Jeff Credille, who is in the audience.

Loden: Jeff Credille is principal at Mantachie High School. He lives in Tupelo and has two children at Carver. He will be working with Jason Harris as an assistant principal at Tupelo High. Board will vote on that later, when they vote on personnel.

Community Liaison Mary Ann Plasencia and Communications Director Kay Bishop are making a presentation about the district’s marketing and communication efforts.

Plasencia notes partnerships with the Ole Miss-Tupelo campus, the city of Tupelo, NMMC for employee health screenings, Big Brothers/ Big Sisters, the Mississippi Arts Commission and CDF.

The district distributed summer reading packets to its students this summer and also distributed them to local daycares.

A group of volunteers from Toyota came to ECEC and Thomas Street Schools to add new gardens to those schools, she said.

The district’s online suggesion box had 82 suggestions from staff and parents from July through May. If the suggestion refers to a specific school, that information is forwarded to principals, she said.

Various teacher, parent and community advisory committees will continue next year.

Bishop is speaking about specific communication efforts. That includes information on the district’s website and YouTube videos by the district. She notes the honor roll signs the district has distributed and the district’s TPSD car tag campaign.

The district increased its contribution to United Way this year from employee contributions, Bishop said. Students donated enough money to Make a Wish that the district will grant a wish during the spring.

The billboard campaign continues. They rotate those regularly at CrossTown and on Gloster. They also have magazine and newspaper ads.

The district had 1,115 mentions in newspapers this year, not including sports. The district’s app has many downloads (I didn’t catch the number).

Board member Eddie Prather asks about how the money from the car tags will be used. Loden said there is a committee of community members that will determine that. Plasencia, who is on the committee, said it hasn’t been determined yet. They will probably wait until next year so collections are larger before they determine that.

12:45 p.m.

Tupelo High Principal Jason Harris is talking about the school’s accreditation visit from AdvancED, which was formerly known as SACS or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The finding credited school leadership for its constant monitoring and support to ensure student success. Morale of all stakeholders was high, the report said.

It cited the district’s use of data to create individual plans and its data rooms.

The report noted that the district’s technology is aging and needs to be replaced.

It cited the district’s formal structure in which each student is known by at least one adult advocate. Said this will help in closing achievement gaps.

Harris said the district scored 346.15 on a scale from 100 to 400. Average score is 282.79, he said. This is just findings, Harris said. The official certification will come later this summer.

Harris notes that at the time, they knew that if the district got bond money it would use that to replace the computers, but it wasn’t official at the time of the visit.

Harris notes the school will learn from the findings of the audit, including an emphasis on teacher advisory committees/ faculty senate. There were nuggets that can help the school continuously improve, Harris said.

Wheeler asks why the school opted to seek the SACS audit.

Loden: They’ve been around for a good while. At one time, the district had all of its schools SACS accredited, but now it is just the high school. Having that accreditation with SACS is important to economic development, he said because it gives people who are considering moving to town an assurance of the school’s quality.

MDE accredits the schools already, but this gives extra emphasis. Loden said it is nice to have someone from the outside come in and hold you accountable.


Harris will make a presentation about the Class of 2015.

Class had 434 graduates. 122 graduated with distinction (89-94 average). 75 graduated with special distinction (95-100). 29 graduated with a 4.0. 114 ACT scholars. National Merit Finalist.

Class has $11.1 million in scholarships, which was a school record. $88,250 in local scholarships.

324 traditional diplomas. 98 advanced studies diplomas (minimum of 28 carnegie units, 4 AP courses and 3.5 GPA), 10 certificates of attendance, 1 occupational diploma. Of the incoming ninth grade class, only 16 did not complete. Three of those non-completers could graduate this summer.

Special education graduation rate is 53 percent, with complete of 92.

Board member Joe Babb asks why the scholarship number jumped so much, from about $8 million to about $11 million. Haris said the school emphasized that, constantly encouraging scholarships and getting students to actively apply for the scholarships they are eligible to receive. They endorsed it, used social media, pushed students to apply for those scholarships.

1:06 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Eddie Peasant will make a presentation about average daily attendance. It includes monthly comparison for each school and for the district, as well as a bar graph comparing 2014-15 to the three previous years.

For this year, months 2 and 3 (the two months the state takes the ADA and applies it to each school to determine funding), the district had a 95.02 percent ADA. That was what the district was shooting for and it will continue to try to raise it higher, Peasant. That is October and Novemeber.

There has been a decrease over the past several years, he said, and the reason for that is the 63-percent rule they’ve been adjusting to for the last two years. As they move forward, they expect that to improve as more people get used to the new rule and what 63 percent looks like in our schools, he said.

1:09 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell will speak about the year-end discipline report,. Major infractions went down 46 percent from the previous spring semester. She said the non-neogtiables and student videos made a big impact.

For the entire year, the major infractions are down 36 percent from the year before. Total infractions down 20 percent from the year before.

Male infractions reduced by 22 percent, females by 22 percent, African American by 24 percent and whites by 16 percent.

Board member Eddie Prather talks about school bus infractions. Ezell said most of them are minor. They are referred to that school’s principal. They emphasize school bus behavior at the beginning of the year.

The district also must present this information to the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, a requirement of a recent audit undergone by the district.

Ruby Payne will come talk to the teachers this summer about different challenges faced by students in poverty, Ezell said.

Prather asks about parent involvement. Ezell said the overnight required conferences have helped by bringing in and getting parents involved before things go poorly. They also are required to explain student behavior expectations to parents at the beginning of the year.

Prather notes that students can help. Ezell said that the middle school and high school have student groups that meet with the principal and help with discipline and school climate.

1:15 p.m.

Personnel director Jim Turner will make a presentation about the district’s personnel recruitment.

He acknowledges Evonne Huddles (spelling?) and Eddie Moore for their work in attending various recruitment fairs.

Several universities had to cancel visits due to snow, Turner said.

Now he will give a benefits analysis. It breaks down number of candidates interviewed, applicants received and the total cost of the trip. They break down the cost per applicant for each university they visited.

Turner notes the majority of minority applicants come from traditional universities, not HBCUs. That doesn’t mean to stop visiting HBCUs, however, he said.

Turner said the report notes how successful their recruiting days are. It is not unusual for other school districts to start a year with vacancies, Turner said, but the Tupelo School District is lucky to have an abundance of applicants for each position it has, she said. Sometimes there are too many applicants. They have implemented a system to help principals screen them to determine whom to interview, he said.

1:22 p.m.

RTI Coordinator Amy Ferguson and testing coordinator Lea Johnson will speak about results from the first retest for the third grade reading gate.

On first test, 64 of the 512 did not pass thrid-grade gate. 39 were eligible for good cause exemptions. They still retested all 64. 49 of those students still did not pass. 38 of those 39 do meet good cause exemption. They are down to 11, who may still be retained. They will be retested on July 27 and 30. They are looking at about 2 percent of third graders who may still be retained.

Of those 11, six of them are special education students and about 4 of them are in the extended school year program for special education. They provided they with devices and put online tutorials on those. The media centers are working with them to give them access to STAR reading, Classworks and other programs this summer.

Good cause exemption is for special education students who have previously been retained or ELL students who have spent fewer than two years in the program.

Board member Rob Hudson asks is students can be retained for other reasons. Ferguson said they can, but she doens’t think there are any other students who will be third grade. There is some overlap of these 11 students that would have been retained otherwise.

All of the students who didn’t meet the gate were students the district had previously identified as needing extra help. There were no surprises, Ferguson said.

Board asks about parent pushback. Fergsuon notes one parent was upset that special education students will still be retained, even if they have an IEP. That they won’t be allowed to promote to the next grade with their IEP.

Of the 11, only 2 are neither special education or English language learners. Those 2 are transit students whom the district hasn’t had in its classrooms the entire time.

Loden: This year was a guessing game because the test was new and we didn’t have any benchmark data. Everyone worked hard and did a great job. Next year will have to start over again because it is a new test but we have a good plan.

Johnson said the district won’t rely too heavily on the STAR test next year since it will be a different test. She and Ferguson said the district’ won’t lower its standards for retention.

Ferguson: They have an intervention program in all five areas of reading and they are adding one in third grade next year to work on vocabulary.

34 of the 37 interventionists will be back next year. They received a lot more training during May Institute, Ferguson said.

Loden: We haven’t focused on the third-grade gate. We’ve focused on the curriculum and quality instruction and working on interventions.

For students who move within the district, they will get the same curriculum and same intervention program, which is a benefit, Ferguson said.

1:39 p.m.

Board accepts the consent agenda. It includes permission for school security officers to carry pepper spray. Board notes there is a schedule planned for all officers to receive training on using it.

Also includes contractual agreements, donations, permission to submit for a grant, permission to add and delete assets, permission to advertise bids for milk and ChromeBooks, student transfer report, overnight field trip request, renewal of the “offer vs. serve” meal option, agreement between LifeCore and the TPSD and Lee County School District for the McDougal Center, a MOU with Lee County Schools for the Career Center, the final amend for the special education budget and assurances for federal funds (Title 1A, Title II, Title X McKinney Vento).

Board approves Docket of Claims.

Finance Director Rachel Murphree is making several finance reports – reconciled bank statements, statement of revenue and expenditure report, cash flow report, consolidated fund balance sheet and monthly financial statement.

Board approves the finance reports.

1:53 p.m.

Turner will present the personnel report.

Principals and directors are working diligently to fill vacant positions, he said. It is a busy time of year.

They had 48 positions that needed to be filled in May. Now there are 16 positions that still need to be filled. Turner notes principals are working hard to fill those positions.

Board approves the personnel report.1:59 p.m.Board approves the recommendation to award low bid for the Filmore Center Re-Roof Project of 3G Industrial Roofing, LLC, subject to proper bonding. It was significantly under the standard price.

This is the first bond project to proceed.

Board votes to allow the district to close its offices on Friday, July 3 and Monday, July 6 for the Fourth of July holiday.

The district will have its summer administrative retreat this week, June 10-12. The Board retreat will be next week, June 18-19.

The next scheduled board meeting with be on July 21. Budget hearing will be that evening, July 21, at 5 p.m.

2:15 p.m.

Board adjourns.