Manila School Board members take walk-through

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Members of the Manila School Board toured the buildings throughout campus before working through the August agenda on Thursday evening. Board members saw how the newly installed projectors and computers will be utilized in the classrooms.

Superintendent Pam Castor gave an enrollment comparison reporting 1,046 students presently enrolled.

"This time last year we had 1,026 enrolled and our 2006-07 average daily attendance was 1,009," Castor said. "We will not know for sure about the exact numbers this year until after Labor Day."

Board member Johnny McCain asked if the district will be able to handle the growth without additional staff.

"We won't know for sure until the first day of school," Castor said.

Castor said some class numbers will be at the limit with the preliminary enrollment information.

She recommended the district participate in the Crowley Ridge Co-op Services. The Co-Op offers a variety of services to the area schools including professional development, special education services and a new facility coordinator to help with plan writing for partnership funding.

"The facility coordinator has already been beneficial to us in our appeal process for partnership funding in elementary," Castor said.

After a discussion about the different fees for the services, the board members voted 6-1 with Jackie Hill casting the no vote, to participate in the Co-Op services.

Following an executive session, the board voted unanimously to hire Carrie Mays as a full time paraprofessional. Mays has worked for the district part-time. Rachel Smithson was hired as custodian.

The board discussed in detail lighting and bleacher projects for the football field. The board had rejected all bids at the July meeting giving Castor time to look into more economical options for the district.

Castor informed the board the balance currently available for both projects is $244,474.

She had talked directly to the light manufacturing company about purchasing lights and looked at different possibilities for poles and installation.

Castor recommended purchasing the lights (with a 25 year warranty) and poles from Musco and hiring Ridgeland for the installation. The total cost of the lighting project for lights, warranty, poles and installation is $114,085.

The board agreed to go forward with the lighting project.

A review of bleacher options took on a lengthy discussion with the board agreeing to stay within the $130,000 range for the bleachers.

"We need to be making progress," McCain said. "We may have to start with seating for 600 and add as we go. We want to provide a first rate education and first rate opportunities for our young people."

Castor reminded the board any plans must be submitted to the state for approval and have to meet all requirements of the state.

Board member Hill suggested giving Mrs. Castor the approval to go ahead with the plans for the project using project balance of approximately $130,000.

"She is the one who will be talking to the people and getting the best prices available," Hill said. "She can find out exactly how much concrete and how many bleachers the budgeted funds will purchase."

During the administrative reports Castor informed the board the audit had been completed and the district had no audit findings.

"You will be receiving the official word but I just wanted to let you know," Castor said.

Board President Tony Crowell expressed the board's appreciation for "a great job."

Castor also announced Manila's ACT scores are up.

High School Principal Pam Chipman said she was very pleased with Manila's scores in comparison with the state.

"We are coming up on every level," she said. "I'm proud of what the students and teachers are doing."

Chipman also informed the board of the progress in the Advanced Placement (AP) classes now in its third year at MHS.

"When we started AP classes we were told not to get discouraged because it would take five years for the students to pass the end course tests," Chipman said. "Well, we had two pass the first year, one to pass the second year and this year we had eight students pass. Students get six hours of college credit when they pass a test. We have one student who has earned 12 college hours. I am excited for our students."

Mrs. Castor spoke briefly about the STEM Charter Grant through Arkansas Northeastern College for high schools in Mississippi County.

"ANC has been awarded a grant from the Arkansas Department of Education to begin planning for a county-wide charter school call STEM, featuring science, technology, engineering and math as part of its curriculum," Castor said. "It will be similar to the vocational center now utilized by area high schools. We are now entering the planning of the Charter. It will be written and come back to the school boards for review. It will do a lot for Mississippi County and a lot for our students. We will not lose anything by participating. It sounds like a good idea. It will be our charter school, the same as all high schools in the county."

The board approved May 16 for the 2008 graduation date.

The board will meet one week early in September moving the meeting to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13. The board regularly meets the third Thursday of each month.

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