The Salem School Board met Tuesday, June 25 and made plans for spending their piece of the economic stimulus pie.
The plan that Superintendent Ken Rich has put together for spending the funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has been split into three sections: Title I, Stabilization Funds and Special Education Funds.
The Title I funds are restricted to purchases that go above and beyond state mandated minimum items. On Rich's list: For the classrooms, are teacher laptops, document camera, projector, slate board and television tuners; elementary school supplies; an upgrade to the library checkout software; high resolution video conferencing systems; and non-fiction books for each of the libraries.
"The big initiative there is the technology initiative. This allows us to finish in a hurry what we already started," Rich said. "With the video conferencing systems, we can take kids on virtual field trips, interact with other classes, the possibilities for that are endless. Hopefully by the time school starts, we'll have it all in place."
In the Stabilization Funds section, Rich listed an agricultural laboratory, the planned Physical Education/Fine Arts building, playground fence and equipment, a new electronic sign, band instruments, HVAC system upgrades and covered walkways at the elementary.
"We talked about the Agricultural Laboratory before, where students can get some hands-on experience with animals. The animals will not be kept here on campus, but will stay with us for a few hours and leave," said Rich. "We will need to take some funds from our building fund to complete the Physical Education/Fine Arts building, but these funds will at least cover half of the cost, if not two-thirds of it."
Rich will be obtaining information from up to three contractors to consider for the new building and suggested the board look for a contractor who could handle the design and build aspects of the job, so they would not have to hire an outside architect. Rich plans to visit buildings that each of the companies have already completed and present his findings to the board at a special session the week of July 7.
"My goal is to see a timeline of how fast they can start and how quickly they can complete the project. Six months should be a reasonable estimate of time for building. The key will be getting the plans approved by the state," Rich said.
The third segment of funds from the ARRA are for Special Education. Rich intends to use these funds to purchase a handicap accessible school bus, install new technology in the classroom (as listed above in the Title I section), purchase reading software to enhance the Accelerated Reader program, and invest in professional development, supplemental instructional materials and intervention materials.
"For students to be placed in a special ed classroom, there's a lot of evaluation that has to be done prior to that. There has to be things that the classroom teacher will try for the student, over a long period of time, as this is not just a quick decision," said Rich. "So, all of that training and use of those materials will really help, especially in the early grade levels."
Elementary principal David Turnbough presented the results of the Junior class' ACT testing. All 45 students in the 11th grade took the test, and three students scored 30 or higher, eight students scored 24 or higher and 22 students scored 19 or higher. According to Turnbough, the class composite average was in line with the national average.
"I was very proud that we were able to be a part of that and give every student the ACT test. A lot of schools shied away from that, and I think a lot of folks will be surprised by the results, for they were very good. It gives every student the chance to see what they can do. It might even change their ideas about going to college in that some may now be thinking of enrolling, where they hadn't before," said Rich.
Turnbough also shared the news that the Salem Chapter of the FFA is the recipient of a Bronze National Chapter award and has been named as one of the top five FAA chapters in the state.
In a letter from Katherine M. Messersmith of the Arkansas FFA Association, she praised the Salem chapter, saying, "FFA allows members to step up and stand out. This award is a testament of your chapter's accomplishments through FFA."
In other business, the state has revised the guidelines for kindergarten eligibility for the coming years. According to Turnbough, for the 2009-2010 school year, students may enter kindergarten if they will attain the age of 5 years on or before Sept. 1, 2009.
"This year there is an exception," said Turnbough. "If your child is going to be 5 before Sept. 15, they have given an exemption that if your child attended a state approved pre-school program they may enroll. We checked and Headstart, Wee Care and Early Horizons were all on that list."
If parents have any questions, they can contact the school for further verification.
The new school calendar has been set, and in accordance with Act 1469 of 2009, five extra days have been built into the calendar as non-membership day to account for weather-related school closings, such as snow days. Those added days are May 19-21 and May 24-25 of 2010.
The board then went into executive session to discuss personnel issues and when they resumed, several announcements were made.
Bruce Sprenkel, a bus driver for the school district, had resigned in order to focus on his teaching classes at ASU-Mountain Home. Sixth grade teacher Emelita "Mylet" Trotter had also tendered her resignation, having accepted a position with the Mountain Home School District.
To fill these positions, Rich announced the hiring of Kristen Hyslip to come on board as a new second grade teacher, and the promotion of current teacher Tiffany Fish to the sixth grade position.
Wendell Smith was hired as a bus driver and also appointed as the youth shooting sports director for the academic year. Luke Barber was also hired as a bus driver.
Amy Sanders was hired to coach the cross country team this year to replace Coach Smith.
As their new Technology Coordinator, the board elected Shaun Windsor to the post. Windsor has been working for the district on a part-time basis, being shared with the Viola campus through the education cooperative.
The last item on the agenda was a reminder from Rich that July 1 is the cut off date for students to choose the school district where they wish to attend the upcoming year without having to go through the legal transfer process later on. He plans to report to the board next month on how the district fared.