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Students in spotlight at board meeting

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Not enough parents are paying for student lunches electronically to offset fees the service provider charges the Salem School System. Without more parent interest, the $3 service fee parents are charged for each deposit into the system will have to be raised or the school board may reconsider whether to continue providing the service.
(Photo by Richard irby)
Student achievement news was the highlight of the January meeting of the Salem School Board.

Senior high principal Wayne Guiltner discussed the results of the December ACT test, the standardized test that colleges use to measure student achievement. Guiltner explained that, in a typical year, the Salem student average for all four parts of the test is 20 to 20.5, and, in a good year, the student average is about 21. Those are both respectable averages, but the December result was off the charts.

"Our students on two of the tests this year have averaged above 21, and, this time (December), 43 students averaged above 21, which is unheard of," Guiltner said. "36 students were 19 and above and 14 students scored 24 or above. To give an example (of how good that is), UACCB gives a full tuition scholarship for a 21. So our kids are averaging a full tuition scholarship to a local school. They are working hard and teachers are doing great. I am very proud of that score."

Also on the topic of student achievement, Guiltner said 12 students in the Salem band program earned placement in All Region Bands during a Jan. 12 audition. Eight students earned second band honors, while four were named to the first band. The first band members, Lane Hall, Emily Johns, Owen Garrison and Courtney Woody, will audition on Feb. 2 for All State Honors.

Guiltner announced that Hunter Medling, a defensive lineman on the 11-1 Salem Greyhounds, will play in the Arkansas High School All Star football game, after being chosen for the All Conference team.

In addition, Coach Cody Curtis was named Coach of the Year in the 3-AA Conference, and will serve as an assistant coach at the All Star game to be held this summer at UCA in Conway.

"I don't think we've had an All Star player in football before," Guiltner said. "That's a great honor for Hunter and Coach Curtis."

Bus Fleet Review

The business session of the meeting began with a review of the school bus fleet.

According to Superintendent Ken Rich, after a number of years of buying a bus a year, the 11 buses which run regular routes are in good shape, and three older buses have been kept as spares.

After consulting with bus mechanic Jason Howell, Rich proposed taking bids this school year for a new bus that would go into use next fall, and selling two of the spares, a 1994 and a 1996 model.

The system has two handicap buses, one a 1989 model with 140,000 miles on it and a 2010 model with only 16,790 miles on it.

Rich pointed out that the five cars in the fleet which are used for school trips and business are saving the school system a lot of money, by avoiding paying individuals 45 cents a mile to use their private vehicles.

Enrollment Increase

The board approved the transfer of four Izard County students into the Salem school system.

The third quarter has begun with an increase in enrollment. Last year, Salem schools averaged 731 students. Currently, 760 are enrolled. Rich hopes that number holds through March, because the state determines the year's enrollment by averaging the first three quarter's numbers. An increase of about 30 students would amount to a good increase in state funding for next year.

"That would help out tremendously," Rich told The News.

While a slight increase in enrollment is welcomed, there are limits as to how many new students can be accepted, without adding staff and space to accommodate them. The fourth grade, for example, currently has 72 students, that leaves room for just three additional students before the maximum of 75 is reached.

Electronic Lunch Payment

In the financial report, the superintendent noted that the system which allows parents to pay for student lunches electronically is not breaking even. While parents are charged a $3 service fee each time they pay for lunches, the school system is also charged fees by the company which manages the service.

The system is taking in only $600 to $700 a month, and, without more parents using the electronic payment system, fees may have to be raised or the school board may have to discuss whether to continue the service.

Superintendent Contract Extension

After a closed session, the board announced that it had hired Tracey Sherman as an elementary school cook, replacing Lou Crow who resigned her position.

The board also discussed the superintendent's contract, and it was extended by one year. With the extension, Rich is under contract through June 30, 2016.

The February meeting of the Salem School Board is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. The meeting in the superintendent's office is open to the public.

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