During its Dec. 20 meeting, the school board voted to award bonuses to all of its employees.
Certified employees (teachers and administrators) will receive $1,000 each.
Classified employees (classroom aides, kitchen workers, secretaries, maintenance workers) will receive $450 dollars each.
Bus drivers will be awarded $250 bonuses.
"The rewards are well deserved," said board member Guy B. Smith. "Our employees have proven they've gone above and beyond what is expected of them."
While the board has used school funds in the past to reward employees for high student achievement, the latest bonuses will come from federal funds recently accepted by the Arkansas Department of Education.
"We are going to receive $142,272 in Education Job Funds," Superintendent Ken Rich explained to the board.
Congress passed the Education Job Fund to provide help to struggling school systems which have had to layoff teachers and cut programs. Later, the fund was expanded to include more school systems.
Superintendent Rich proposed two options for distributing Salem's portion of the funds: Option One would give $85,000 in bonuses, holding back $57,000 for future use. Option Two would allocate all $142,000 for bonuses.
"Option One keeps some money back for emergencies," said Rich.
The board approved the conservative approach.
Rich told the board that many school systems are in financial distress and are using their funds to stop further layoffs and cuts.
"We are very fortunate we are on solid financial ground," said Rich.
In other business, the school board discussed updating the Facilities Plan it keeps on file with the state. The plan lists the school improvement projects the district considers the most important to keep its school operating efficiently.
The board and superintendent agreed that modernizing the high school's heating and air conditioning system was a top priority.
In the elementary school, each classroom has an HVAC unit but, at the high school, four to six classrooms are on one unit. That often makes it difficult to keep each classroom at a comfortable temperature level.
Superintendent Rich bel- ieves the state Partnership Program will pay 66 percent of the cost of upgrading the high school system. A recent estimate for the project was much higher than expected, however. So, new estimates and opinions are being sought.
A larger space for the school band is another improvement on the facilities' list. The district would like to renovate and enlarge the existing band hall or build a new one. Currently, that project is three to five years away and Rich would like to find a way to accomplish it sooner.
Rich would also like to see improvements to the superintendent's office, which is the small building in the high school parking lot. It has had no major updating since it was built years ago. More storage space for records the district is required to maintain is especially needed. Developing a renovation proposal and obtaining preliminary cost estimates were recommended. Rich acknowledges that, since the superintendent's office is not used for student education, it is a low priority and state partnership funds will not be available to help cover the costs of improvement.
During the meeting, the board voted to hire Johnny Mefford as a full time school bus driver. Mefford will replace Cotton Howard, who left the position in November.
The next scheduled Salem School Board meeting will take place on Monday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m.