Tupelo School Board Meeting 12.13.2011

Board approves agenda.

12:14 p.m. Board approves previous minutes. Those include meetings for special called meetings Nov. 14 (approve hearing officer for Calvin Ellis hearing) and Nov. 16 (address suit filed by David Butts against the board of trustees on Calvin Ellis hearing).

12:16 p.m.

Representatives from the University of South Carolina are presenting about an archeological dig they want to do on the Pierce Street Elementary campus. The dig will be about the Battle of Achia.

South Carolina rep called it one of the most important battles in turning the tide from the French to the Brittish.

Dig would include a sweep of the area with metal detectors. They are looking for musket shot and ornaments the Native Americans were weraing. They will dig small holes and refill them. He called it a low-scale, low-intensity dig, not very intrusive.

He said they would also return to provide information about the battle and the dig to the students.

He said they will immediately refill the holes after they dig.

12:23 p.m. Rob Hudson made a motion to allow the dig, and the board approved it 5-0.

12:42: I have fallen behind on the blog. You can also follow updates on twitter @chriskieffer. Eddie Prather made a presentation about the superintendent search, Brent Waldrop spoke about a new AEE award for high performing teachers and Diana Ezell spoke about the process of developing the district’s calendar. I’ll put more information about that out after the meeting.

12:44 Brenda Meriweather is talking about the district’s efforts to add more broadband. The district currently gets 100 MEGS from the MDE. It receives all of it through one pipe from the MDE that is currently maxed out. One option could be going directly though AT&T.

If they got 250 MEGS directly from AT&T, they could bypass the “pipe” from the MDE that goes to all school districts and often has bottlenecks.

Resources like electronic textbooks and Smart boards have put more stress on the system.

Meriweather: Every year we don’t find out until the last minute whether the state fill still fund (online services for the districts). She said that several districts have begun funding it on their own, including Lee County, Oxford and Columbia.

Mary Ann Plasencia said that the option that looks best would increase bandwidth from 100 MEGS to 250 MEGS. Would cost an additional $25,000 per year beyond what is being paid now.

Meriweather said that going away from getting the Internet from MDE would not have any effect on MSIS. She said the state has also cut back on its technical assistance.

She said district is already doing its own filtering and firewall.

Meriweather said that right now teachers are limited in being able to use online resources with videos becasue there is often not enough bandwidth.

Testing coordinator Lea Johnson:

With common core, plan is for those assessments to be online. Asks how they will have bandwidth to do that right now?

No changes would be made until July 1. This would be a budget item for next year.

1:05 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill is now making a presentation about the MDE’s new “Pathways to Success” initiative.

It allows three pathways options to graduation: career pathway option, traditional pathway option and district pathway option.

New state law requires all districts to offer career pathway option beginning next school year. It allows students to graduate with 21 credits with career and technical course requirements.

Traditional pathway is the standard pathway. The state requires at least 24 credits; Tupelo currently requires 21 credits.

The district pathway option can be offered by districts to students. It could allow students to graduate with 24 or 21 credits.

Hill said offering the district pathway would have the biggest impact for students in alternative programs – High School Advancement Academy (upper grades), School Aged Mothers program and Structure Day program (alternative school). Under the traditional option, 16 of 75 graduation-eligible students (21percent) would be able to graduate year. Under district pathway, 39 of 75 (52 percent) would be able to graduate this year.

Tupelo will be able to offer nine of the 16 career clusters identified by the state.

Hill said career pathway prepares students for tomorrow’s jobs. He said that student doesn’t have to leave after 21 credits, noted that they can choose to take more rigorous courses their last year-and-a-half.

Hill said this could also allow for more dual enrollment opportunities between THS students and community colleges, perhaps ICC.

Hill addressed several questions about the initiative.

• IS TPSD lowering its standards by reducing credit requirements for graduation?

No. It is not a matter of losing credits but choosing credits. Three options are available for students to choose at any time, but if students start by choosing one of the lower requirements and change their mind, it might require them to extend their stay to get those five credits….Said they are not decreasing the rigor.

Hill said students could change their mind about their pathway or career cluster. They would talk with counselors to plan.

Hill said district pathway gives students at risk of dropping out an opportunity to graduate high school with fewer credits.

Hill said that most schools he has researched increased their credit requirements from 26 to 28 when they switched to block scheduling.

Hill said culmination requirement will still be there. He said diploma will not look different for each pathway. Diploma will look the same. Difference will be noted through transcript.

Hill is showing the board a video from the West Point School District, which offered the graduation pathways last year.


Hill said students will began to develop their ICAP, individual career plan, as early as sixth grade. They will chose their career cluster in eighth-grade but will have flexibility to change it.

He said there would be training provided for counselors. He said that counseling program won’t need to be restructured, they will just need to familiarize the counselors with this process.

Every student will have an ICAP.

Rob Hudson asks about the career pathway, 21 versus traditional. I understand it is a strategy to help those kids who might not graduate. Is there any data whether that option is encouraging students to move from the traditional who shouldn’t move from the traditional.

Hill said he hasn’t seen any data from districts that are already employing these pathways. Hill said district pathway would help students in alternative programs.

Hudson said students would remain on traditional path if college is in their plans.

Hill said the idea is to capture those students who want to focus on career path. Said this is one of Mississippi’s major ways to reduce dropouts.

David Meadows talked about having rigorus courses available to challenge students, such as a large number of advanced placement courses and a possibly International Baccalaureate curriuclum.

Board member Lee Tucker said that even with rigorous courses available now, many students choose to merely coast to graduation.

Hill said that the district option would be only for students in alternative programs because they are at risk of dropping out. He said career pathway is careful to make sure students are work ready and post-secondary ready when they leave high school.

Hill said district option pathway would help to capture students who are old enough to graduate and (fall short on credits.)

1:52 p.m.

Evet Topp will now speak about the career pathway. Topp is an assistant principal at THS and director of the career technical center.

Topp: “My goal as career center director is to bring in as many programs as possible.”

Christy Jordan is speaking about the Career Pathway Experience plan, which will replace the co-op program.

Co-op now serves 48 students and under career pathwy expeiernce, it will stay with 48 student.

It will become a one-year program instead of a two-year program.

Under the new Career Pathway Experience, students will have four different work options; paid, volunteer, career and technical center intern (teacher’s aid) and apprenticeship.

Topp is asking the board to approve a digital media technology program, course and teacher.

Enrollment would be 72 students. Interest surveys reveald 82 THS students and 152 TMS students who said they were interested.

MDE has already improved a teacher unit, which means 99 percent of the salary would be paid by the state. The state would need to pay 1 percent of the salary and fringe benefits. Total amount would be $53,869, but with the state covering 99 percent of it, the district would need to pay $4,357 plus benefits and insurance, total of about $17,000.

The class would use the room now used for the Apple Tech lab. It would not require new technology.

Topp is now speaking about “Teacher Academy,” a pathway designed for high school students interested in the education field. Goal is to prepare students to become teachers. District’s lone cost would be teacher salary. Topp is not requesting approval of it today but is providing information for consideration.

Topp said the district may also want to consider adding hotel/ restaurant management, especially if they do not add “Teacher Academy.”

Jason Harris will now speak about THS’s possible switch to block scheduling.

Harris said they have been spending time during the fall studying Star districts in Mississippi trying to get Tupelo High to that level. He said that of 26 Star High Schools, 20 of them are currently on block schedule and one is about to switch to it.

123 teachers surveyed about block scheduling. 117 voted in favor of it (95 percent) and six voted agianst it.

Harris said block schedule could encourage more students to take advanced courses. Now, if students are in two AP courses, they have to focus on both throughout the year. Under a block, they could take one each semester and focus on one at a time.

Now, on state tests, students need to recall in May what they learned in August. Under block scheduling, they would take the test after a semester.

Harris is outlining a training schedule that could prepare teachers for the block schedule, starting in January. He said money was already budgeted this year for that training. There could be additional costs for next year because it could require additional staff.

Harris said they will look at the possibility of requiring additional credits for graduation if they switch to block. Core classes would remain the same but more electives may be required.

Harris said goal is to get every student their schedule before they leave in May so everyone could be better prepared.

Harris said no research is either for or against block, but that it is what seems to fit. He said a lot of principals he has talked to that are on block, they said, it is more the testing aspect. He said the college board is pushing to make AP tests available in December too, not just in the spring.

He said teachers would be able to get more depth than they can now in a 50-minute period.

Harris said this would open up more opportunites for students because they can gain eight credits in a year instead of seven. He hopes this will encourage students to take more rigorous couses, noting that many seniors now “let up on the gas.”

Question about long gap between math classes, taken in the fall of one year and the spring of the next.

Harris said there is no guarantee with that but he thinks they can work it out. He said that is one of the drawbacks.

Meadows said this would be the fourth time he has had the opportunity to help a district transition to block scheduling. He said he has several prediction equations he uses to make a staffing equation to determine how many teachers would be needed for block.

Harris said he is talking with Kristy Luse about how they will work out sharing staff members for music and band.


Julie Hinds is now presenting about long-term capital project plan. She said she spoke with principals about needs and talked with maintenance about issues that would need to be fixed. They also looked at roof warranties and what would need to be fixed.

Funding comes from annual budget, currently $1.26 million. She said they also have money from the $2 milllion short-term note approved this school year. There is still some QSCB, stimulus money.

Hinds said one of the big things is trying to find a site to consolidate Carver and Church Street kindergarten to second graders on one site. Right now they are looking at renovating or adding onto an existing site to do that. She said there is a group at Mississippi State they can work with for advice.

Another item is new structural space for vocational program.

Under athletics is either renovation of current baseball facility or building a new facility on campus of Tupelo High. Current facility needs a big overhaul. That would require $300,000 for that work or $3,000,000 to build a new one.

Hinds said the field is in great shape, it is the area around it that needs work and that it is not on the high school campus. She said that with the $300,000 overhaul, it would be enough that the facility would be set for years.

Another atheltic project is resurfacing of track at Tupelo High School, which would cost $170,000.

Hinds said they also talked about a few other possible items, potential of soccer field at THS, upgrade visitor lockerroom at the stadium and possible field house at the high school.

Board asks for a future list of these projects prioritized according to the district’s mission.


Board approves transfer report.

Board considering personnel report, which includes five additional Nationally Board Certified Teachers.

Personnel report approved.


Board approves claims docket.


Board will look at new policy on teachers tutoring students. Policy would not allow employees to tutor for pay (or private lessons for pay to) students they work with during the school day. It would allow teachers to work with students in those programs that are funded by grants.

Rob Hudson said he understands the possible conflict but he worries about setting best tutors to the side for students who might need that tutoring. He said the conflict exists for lots of reasons and teacher may create the conflict for other reasons than being paid for tutoring (know the family, go to church with them, etc.). He said he worries about teachers who are breadwinners and need all available income. He said when he puts potential for conflict against other things negated by policy, he doesnt know if what we lose is worth what we gain.

Diana Ezell said that she doesn’t know of any teacher, if there is a student having problems in algebra, more than one teacher can address that. She said that a coach can work with players before and after they got on the team but while coaching them they wouldn’t be able to work with them for pay.

Lee Tucker said district also needs to look at protection of teachers for avoiding appearance of what is evil. It seems funny that every time someone pays that teacher to tutor, they start getting A’s and B’s.

Ezell said when she was teaching, she didnt want it to appear that her students were failing because she wanted to tutor them after the school day.

Heyer said the district appreciates all of those teachrs who stay after and tutor students not for pay.

David Meadows said that this policy is common through most distircts. It also takes the educator code of ethics into consideration.

Hudson asks about upper-level courses where only one teacher teaches that course. Ezell said perhaps the district could get a grant to allow for that teacher to get paid for tutoring. Hudson said he doesn’t want the tutoring need to go unment. Ezell said that the district also needs to look at how it is differentiating instruction. She said she thinks there are ways to work to make sure district is doing the best things for their students.

Ezell said teachers have families and need to be compensated for time after school. She said that is one reason why the district has paid programs avaible during the summer (through grants).

Hudson asks if language is needed for what triggers the grant, if there is only one teacher available in an AP course, could they get a grant? Ezell said that if 50-percent of the students in such a class are failing, the principal needs to look at why those students are struggling.

Meadows said there are public funds available that can help compensate the teacher for those duties.

Ezell said there are also tutoring opportunities available online.

Board approves policy 5-0. Eddie Prather made the motion and Beth Stone the second.

3:08 p.m.

Fred Hill is now presenting a policy that tweaks graduation requirements.

Policy would allow district pathway option for students in the district’s three alternative programs, High School Advancement Academy, School Aged Mothers and Structured Day Program. Those students would be able to graduate with 21 credits.

Board will vote on that policy in January.

3:14 pm.

Meeting has now lasted three hours.

Linda Pannel is making presentation about bank bids.

She said she is surprised teh district got the rate it did with the economy as it is.

Recommending district go with Renassant Bank for three years. She said it may take until end of January to go through logistics of switching banks. She said that the one-year rates are really small.

Meadows said that based on information available now, they believe this is the right thing for school district.

Hudson said most agree that the two-year outlook is pretty flat. He said district would be limiting its risk only to year three.

Board approves Pannel’s recommendation on bank bids.

3:24 p.m.

Board approves Career Pathways Experience Plan, which includes a digital media program for the career center.

3:28 p.m.

Board approves 2012 meeting schedule.

3:28 p.m.

Board goes into temporary executive session to discuss a personnel matter.

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