The Tupelo School Board meeting has begun.
Kenneth Wheeler was just sworn in as a new board member. After the swearing in, Wheeler recognized his family, which is in attendance, and thanked Sally Gray of Parents for Public Schools for her support. He recognizes incomming superintendent Gearl Loden, who is in attendance.
The board adds a line to the personnel report, which is the recommendation of an assistant superintendent.
The board will go through the agenda at this meeting, the noon meeting. It will vote during the 5 p.m. meeting at Lawhon Elementary.
David Meadows is speaking about component 4 of his “Moving Forward Together Plan.” He said that at a meeting last week of Tupelo High School staff, he asked the school to become part of the first Council of Excellence. It would be a group of various constiuents to research various issues “of how we can support and help Dr. Loden as he builds this community of excellence.” It would have students, teachers, parents, community members, administrators, etc.
Meadows is also share information from listening sessions with various constituencies. Board members met in groups of two with various community members. Administrators were present for some of those meetings.
Meadows is presenting a summary of some of the main ideas that emerged in those meetings.
He said one topic was safety and security. He said one group said the district should analyze its bomb threat procedure. Someone also mentioned the need to look at filters for the MacBooks.
Other categories that stood out to Meadows:
Building more trust: including exit interviews of families and employees and to continue to work toward outreach opportunities.
Academics: To strenghten foundational basis on which PK-5 schools are built. To focus on children without overemphasizing testing. State testing was mentioned several times. Along with that also came the importance of communicating the value of that testing.
Discipline appeared on several pieces of information supplied to Meadows with standpoint of consistency. It includes where does Postive Behavior Support System fit in. Several people noted that the district has decreased the number of assistant teachers in K-6 grades. Meadows said that came up several times.
Miscellaneous: Textbooks. Concern for maintenance of our buildings.
Meadows said communication appeared numerous times and making communication more than a one-way street. “Set up a system that would make communication have an easier route to travel from the hearers and the sharers.”
Accountability that administration asks the board creates and make sure we always have job descriptions.
One of the things that came out repeatedly under academic achievement was the achievement gap. We need to be transparent about the achivement gap and we need to be working dilligently and consistently to focus on the achievement gap until it is eliminated.
Another thing that came up was alternative schools. There is a need to continue to evaluate that.
Meadows said he will continue to work on getting a thorough list completed. He said the district met to begin putting in a strucutre to establish a vehicle for councils of excellence. They will also meet with community to get input on the makeup of those councils, how they should be made up.
Beth Stone: Once we establish the councils, what happens with the information at that point?
Meadows: We proabaly want to ask the groups themselves, to the point of do we need an outside facilitator. In my opinion, the answer would be yes, but we need to ask the groups.
Meadows said the district would want to get the list (of what had been discussed). He would like to turn the list over to Dr. Loden and the school board. A next step may be to return to the council and ask them to break up into subgroups and have them be a part of identifying each part of an issue. For example, maybe a subgroup to work on discipline or on achievement gap.
Meadows said the subgroups would need to come back to the Council of Excellenace as a whole and share their research, discussion and points of action and how the district can move forward together. He said that one action will be, if there is a list of 5 or 6 issues, the larger council of excellence should provide input on priorities. “Establish a priority against which the district can measure itself in terms of moving forward in that particular area.”
Wheeler asks about Positive Behavior Support System.
Meadows said it is a program that was adopted a couple of years ago. He said it would need to fall under the area of discipline but that it might need to be pulled out of there for more study of itself.
Heyer: We don’t want people to think this is the end of our communication because we are moving on to the next phase. We want to keep that communication open.
Heyer said there may be some community members may not want to sit down with two board mebers but may want to email or call. She said there needs to be a way for those people to express their concerns and for the board to provide feedback.
Meadows said they need to use every avenue of communication. “We need to make sure it is not a one-way street and that it is not a street that becomes blocked.”
Heyer said some people may be more comfortable with a phone call or email. Meadows agreed and said that the district needs to communicate that.
Hudson said he wants to make sure that the board will continue to monitor progress in these areas. He said they must avoid the temptation to take one issue, work on it and then move on to the next.
Stone said that some of this can be incldued into board goals. However, she said, some of them may not rise to that level and that board must also pay attention to those.
Prather said that he thinks it is good to break it down to the school level and to give elementary parents
Hudson: The board doenst know everything. This is a great opportunity for the board to know everything. All of that information will be shared with the board, and it gives us the ability to ask the right questions, the more that we know.
Several principals are presenting what they learned from their visits to High Performing and Star schools in Mississippi. The principals were to visit those schools to learn things they can take to the district.
Rob Hudson: There is a lot of good information gathered, do we know what things were so impressive that we will go back to our discipline and try to implement.
Assistant superintendent Fred Hill said he has heard from several formal and informal conversations some things they want to bring to the district. One example is a Study Island, a computer program that third- to fifth-grade schools have since added.
Prather asks about the dual-enrollment courses.
Talina Knight (of Tupelo High School): Each school was on AB block. She said that Northwest Rankin is looking to add 36 hours of college credit. It saves students a lot of money in the long run.
She said one thing that stood out at the high schools she visited was that they had a reading specialist who worked with students who were struggling in reading.
Denisce Salter of the School-Aged-Mother program said her visit to Pontotoc High School showed they did a good job with differentiated instruction. She said that is a key to closing the achievement gap because they are able to help students with their individual needs. Subject area teachers were able to get together to develop lesson plans that would help students in their class with respect to their individual needs and individual learning styles.
Hill thanks the board and Meadows for giving administrators this opportunity to visit high performing and star schools. He said it has been very helpful and that he thinks this is something the principals will continue to do if allowed.
Finance director Linda Pannel said that tax collections for operations and debt are above normal for this time of year.
Julie Hinds and T.J. Higgins will make a presentation on the district’s security cameras.
Hinds said they have looked at the cameras that were put in seven years ago and they have a proposal for additional cameras they would like to add.
They would like full coverage of hallways, coverage of cafeteria serving lines and the small cafeteria and coverage of the stairweels in the ninth-grade building.
She said they met with high school administrators, asked them to list what they’d like to see covered. She said this list represents the top priorities.
They propose six exterior cameras. That would cover several areas and capture license plates as cars enter and exit campus.
They have seven cameras that they would like to relocate or adjust angles.
Total cost for the new cameras would be $64,890. That would include a new server and an upgrade of two servers. The servers would allow for longer storage.
The new camera would also allow for a greater range.
Kenneth Wheeler asked a couple of technical questions about the kind of cameras that would be used. He said the question is whether you want more clarity or more information. He said the question is the mission of the camera.
Higgins said for inside hallway cameras, they want clarity, they want to be able to recognize person’s face.
On parking lots, Hinds said they currently have relative good cameras but they are focused on one area. They would like to put computers in both guard shacks so that when security officers have down time, they could monitre those cameras.
Wheeler asks about day-night cameras, which go to black-and-white at night. He said that helps see images in the dark. He said that would help and that it doesn’t cost any extra.
Prather asks about the timeline. Julie Hinds said they can try to get an answer on that for tonight.
Hudson asks where the cost fits in on the budget. Meadows said there is a seperate line item on that and they had planned to upgrade security cameras. He said they had a portion of that money in this year’s budget and with Dr. Loden’s permission, they could also include it in next year’s budget.
Wheeler makes a recommendation about the network and the ability for administrators to view the images from their computers.
Diana Ezell is making a presentation on projected enrollment for next year. The projection for K-12 would be 7,219 students. Pre-K would add about 275 more. There is also data for each school and grade level. Ezell said that Meadows worked on the projections and that in the past, his projections have proven to be accurate.
The report also contains projections for special education and for gifted. She said the district would like to add two teacher units for gifted. Right now the district’s ratio is 45-1 for gifted. She said the state prefers 40-1 but has given district’s flexibility becuase of budget cuts.
Pam Traylor is presenting the student transfer report.
Jim Turner is presenting the personnel report. It includes two retirements and one resignation for licensed staff. For classified staff, two new hires, two resignations, a change of status, a retirement.
Now have 195 individuals in the substitute pool.
Turner said he’s just returned from recruiting for the district. There are three remaining trips. They have spoken with 111 applicants, 26 percent were minoritiy. That is currently five applicants for every open position, plus the applicants through the district website.
As of April 2, there are 12 licensed staff position and 23 non-licensed staff positions listed.
The board will go into temporary executive session to look at licensed staff for the next school year.
The board has just come out of executive session. Prather said that no action was taken in executive session.
Rob Hudson will present the claims docket tonight.
Julie Hinds is making a presentation about bids for uniforms for maintenance and transportation mechanics. Low bid is G&K Services.
AEE President Brent Waldrop said the organization will fund 17 grants totalling $67,000. It will reveal the names of the grant recipients at its annual banquet on April 19 at Thomas Street Elementary.
Board is discussing future agenda topics.
Prather said that with the process of having dialogue with community members, he’d like to have some structure with it, perhaps rotating two board members available at a certain time and day of the week. He’d like to find a way of doing that without having to change someone’s schedule at the last minute.
Heyer said that the board used to set up at Kroger at set hours.
Board will adjourn. It will meet again at Lawhon Elementary at 5 p.m.