Manila School Board hear principals' reports

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Manila School District principals gave a progress update at the Sept. 19 school board meeting.

Manila Elementary Principal Jason Evers gives an overview of the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year at the September School Board meeting. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Elementary principal Jason Evers was first on the agenda. He said the school year is off to a good start.

"The teachers chose a book theme and did an excellent job getting the building ready," Evers said. "Our enrollment is up in K-4 with a total of 419 students. Even though the enrollment is up, we are in compliance with class sizes in all grades."

Elementary grade enrollments include kindergarten 105; first grade 79; second grade 84; third grade 72; and fourth grade 79.

"Teachers are doing a great job," he said. "I have an amazing staff."

Evers said the final tests scores from last year are not in, but he is sure they have made gains. The elementary has implemented a new math program. He said it is going well and the teachers have worked hard preparing for the new program. It is in line with the Common Core requirements. Evers said a new data base will be used which will be helpful in tracking progress of each student and being able to know what each one needs.

"We also have departmentalized the second grade," he said. "Like the third and fourth grades the teachers are teaching individual subjects instead of all of the subjects. It seems to be going well."

He also said the district is ahead in the state requirements of dyslexia training. There are seven teachers who have taken the training.

Mr. Evers said the Lion Loot project as rewards for positive behavior has been implemented. He said the children seem to enjoy it and are excited to participate in it.

LeeAnn Helms, middle school principal, gave an overall report on the fifth through eighth grade start with 309 students enrolled.

"We are up overall in enrollment," she said. "Common Core is in full swing," she said.

The middle school has two new computer labs, for a total of three, and a mobile lab. There are 30 Nooks in the classroom and 10 in the library. Middle school has Robotic teams who will compete in Searcy. The fifth and sixth grade teams meet after school and the seventh and eighth grade teams meet during school.

"We only have about 18 students in study hall," Helms said.

The students are involved in classroom work or other learning activities throughout the day. There is a blog for middle school allowing everyone to see what is going on, Mrs. Helms said. She spoke about the students' involvement in Rachel's Challenge, which teaches kids how to make others feel better about themselves.

"We are moving in the positive," she said. "Test scores are going up. I invite you to stop by and visit the middle school and check out our robotics teams."

Mrs. Helms presented a video highlighting the middle school students and activities.

Robin Baugher, high school principal, commended the principals on the work in the elementary and middle school.

She reported the high school is off to a good start. There are seven new faculty members and an enrollment of 327. The senior class is a little smaller than usual with 65. Other grades include 90 freshmen, 92 sophomores and 80 juniors.

"Some of our classes are at the maximum but we are still in compliance," Mrs. Baugher said. "We have 102 course offerings."

She talked briefly about the Burdette classes and distance learning classes.

"We should be on line next year to offer more classes, including credit recovery," she said. "We have 52 students taking Advance Placement classes. We have 16 clubs and many students involved in competitive sports."

A Robotics team was started last year and won Rookie of the Year, but this year, due to ASU's funding being cut, ASU will not be able to sponsor the Robotics program.

Mrs. Baugher said the district is looking at alternatives.

She talked about graduation rates. In 2011 Manila was 89 percent and the state average is 84 percent.

"We are used to being at 90 percent," she said. "We set the bar high."

She talked about new training for the students and the teachers; the East Lab and some of the projects the students are working on; and the advisory program.

"Every freshman student is given an adviser and they stay with them throughout high school," Baugher said.

Superintendent Pam Castor said Manila High School has been chosen to field test the Common Core PARRC Assessment.

"This will be good for our students and help us test our technology," she said.

Following a short executive session, the board voted unanimously to move Sandra Brown from custodian position to a paraprofessional position. They voted 7-0 to hire Pam Purser as custodian. They also voted to transfer Dan Helms as football practice coach to assistant football coach.

Mrs. Castor talked briefly about the increase in the teacher/staff insurance premiums.

She said many schools have started contracting out the substitute teachers because of the insurance. She said if the district matched the insurance to make it in line with other state employees it would cost the district in excess of an additional $300,000 annually. With the increase, at the present match, it will cost the district an additional $109,584 annually. If the spouses are insured the amount could go up to $277,200. Mrs. Castor said the district currently pays $13,886 more over the state funding amount for insurance.

"I know you all support the staff in this and we hope with the combined efforts of the Governor and legislature we can end up with a workable solution," Mrs. Castor said.

In other business:

*The board voted to approve the graduation date and time at 7 p.m. Monday, May 19.

*Mrs. Castor and the board reviewed wording for the school facility use policy. The board voted unanimously 7-0 to accept the policy with the guidelines and provisions.

*The board agreed to allow Mrs. Castor to move forward on land contracts.

*Mrs. Castor said she is currently working on the budget and a tentative special meeting was set for Thursday, Sept. 26, at 6:30 p.m.

*Mrs. Castor said the construction on the concession stand is making progress and she requested having additional sidewalks placed. After a discussion on the cost, they decided to make a decision at the special meeting.

*Mrs. Castor informed the board pictures will be taken before the next regular meeting in October. She asked board members to let the office know if they are planning on attending the Arkansas School Board Fall meeting in Marion on Oct. 21; or the Conference in Little Rock Dec. 11-18.

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