Manila School Board President Danny Robbins congratulated board member Jeremy Jackson on being named Outstanding Board Member at the recent Regional Board meeting held at Wynne. Jackson was one of six board members recognized. Jackson serves as secretary on the Manila Board.
Board members reviewed the financial report with McCain asking about the enrollment numbers. Superintendent Pam Castor said "as of today" the enrollment is 1035.
"That may be the largest number since I have been on the board," Reinhart said.
"In the late 1990s we had 1076," Castor said. "We haven't broken that yet, but we are making progress."
Castor recommended the board approve the Arkansas Standards of Accreditation. She explained every year the board has to approve the Arkansas Standards and there are no changes at this time. The legislature will be reviewing it and there may be changes in the future but as of now, standards are the same.
The board also approved the Arkansas Frameworks/CCSS, as state mandated.
Mrs. Castor read resolutions to conduct business with several area firms and companies declaring they have relatives employed by the school district. Castor said it is in the best interest of the school to do business with these companies from time to time. The board approved Today's Flowers & Gifts; E&I Supply; ABS Envelope and Business Systems; Douglas Electric; Tipco Industries; Oates Construction; Benny Bob's Barbecue; and Walmart. Mrs. Castor declared she is the niece of Charles Perry of Charles Perry Farms, and Jerry Castor, Manila Football Coach.
The board held a discussion on farm contracts. Castor presented bid sheets for contracts asking the board if they wanted any changes. She asked if they wanted bid or negotiate the contracts.
The school land contracts up this year are 15128 farmed by Holthouse; 16149 farmed by Donner; and 16148 farmed by Wildy. The contracts expire on Dec. 31.
"If the board decides to take bids, we need to be ready by next month," Castor said.
Reinhart expressed his opinion to meet with the present farmers renting the land and negotiate.
Veach said unless the school has a reason to be dissatisfied he would like to negotiate but he was okay with bidding or negotiating.
"If we get into negotiations with some and not others, it could be considered discrimination," Wagner said.
Wagner suggested there needs to be a policy adopted so the future school boards will not have to make the decision to bid one and negotiate another. He said it does not have to be done tonight but there needs to be a policy in place for the future.
Wagner expressed his opinion that bidding would be a more fair process.
"We want farmers to treat the land as it is their own," Reinhart said.
Veach said the length of the contract is important.
"Five year contract is short term for a farmer buying a lot of equipment," Veach said.
Wagner said the board cannot know if they are maximizing the profits from the land without bidding.
Reinhart said a farmers track record will speak for itself.
"Regardless if we go bids or negotiations, no one in this room thinks these guys have not done an excellent job," Crowell said.
Wagner said the amount might put the district in the same spot with bids or negotiations but he thinks bidding is a better way.
"We owe it to the taxpayers and to the teachers to maximize what we can get out of the farmland so maybe we can give them more of a raise than we did last year," Wagner said.
Board voted to take bids or enter into negotiations. Bids passed 6-1 with Reinhart voting for negotiations.
"The board has great discretion when it comes to school property," Castor said.
The board decided to make the contracts 7, 8 and 9 years. They drew which parcel would get which years with 16149-7 years; 16148-8 years; and 15128-9 years.
The board wanted to add the option of a combination of cash/crop rent to be considered.
Mrs. Castor said she would advertise for bids which will be due at 2 p.m., Nov. 15.
"I was approached by people who farm next to Metheny Farms and I was told they will not give them access to their land," McCain said. "They were out about $2,100 to build a road to get back to their land. I told them I would bring it up."
Mrs. Castor said she would look into it.
"You can't deny access but you don't have to make it easy," Veach said. "It is not something we want to have happen."
The board then discussed future building projects.
The board had a lengthy discussion reviewing the possibilities of building or renovating.
Castor presented a calendar in conjunction with construction plans.. Feb. 1, 2013, is the date to submit any mid-cycle updates to the Master Plan. Feb. 1, 2014, the Master Plan will be submitted for the 15-17 cycle. The last opportunity to revise the Master Plan is March 1, 2014. The Partnership Application will be submitted on March 1, 2014 and the approval of Partnership Applications will be May 1, 2014. The state department will issue an approval with funding; approval without funding or not approved.
She said the preliminary plan information will need to go to the architect by December 2013.
"We have two buildings over 50 years old," Castor said.
Castor said the growth projections for Manila are usually low.
"I think it is because so many of our births are in Craighead County," Castor said.
Wagner asked about the difference in the cost of renovation and new building.
Castor said it would be very expensive to bring the buildings over 50 years old up to code.
Questions discussed included extending the millage without raising it, the possibility of partnership money, what can the district afford, building on the same campus or looking at other sites, etc.
"The state is moving toward bigger and better," Wagner said. "We are the school of the area where other schools have consolidated into. We have two buildings on campus over 50 years old. We are trying to make decisions for 50 years in the future. We need to look at the future and make the right decisions. We want to be in the driver's seat when consolidation comes down."
"We will do the best we can for the school and what we do is for the long haul." Castor said. "We want to make the best decisions for the community and the students."
The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 and Mrs. Castor will have representatives there to discuss possible future building projects.
In other business:
*Manila School Board members went into a closed session on Thursday, Oct. 25, for a student expulsion hearing for violation of the tobacco use policy. The board voted to expel the student for the remainder of the school year.
*The board recognized the junior high boys Cross Country runners for winning in district and the lady runners for coming in second.
*Castor said the Manila High School has its first Robotics team and they will compete at ASU on Saturday, Oct. 27.