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School Board Makes Difficult Decisions, Reduces Staff Contract Extensions, Accepts Resignations

By Sue Curry Jones

The Ava R-1 School Board met on Thursday, March 15, with the main thrust of attention focused on the decision to desist from rehiring certain teachers and staff members due to budget constraints next year.

During closed session, a motion to re-hire four teachers and one maintenance worker was met with a 0-vote to retain.  Those affected by the board’s decision were William Schoelles, middle school Art; Charity Bentley, high school Communications Art; Jason Macy, Speech and Drama; Retha Weathers, high and middle school Family and Consumer Science; and Jerry Maggard, Sr., maintenance.

According to Dr. Brian Wilson, superintendent, Maggard had volunteered to resign if personnel cutbacks were deemed essential for the maintenance crew.

On the issue of re-hiring teachers Christy Stockdale and Brett Mitchell the board split, and both votes were mixed.

Stockdale, who taught elemen­tary and middle school physical ed­ucation this past year, received a 2-5 vote with Pat Henry and Larry Silvey voting in favor of the re-hire, and Johnny Burkdoll, Ron Wallace, Reggie Spurlock, Regina Porter and Marsha Aborn against.

For Mitchell, middle school health teacher and high school asst. football coach and drivers education instructor, the vote was 3-4.  Board members Johnny Burkdoll, Ron Wallace and Randy Spurlock voted to re-hire Mitchell, and Regina Porter, Pat Henry, Marsha Aborn and Larry Silvey voted against.

The board also voted to reduce extended contracts to the following staff members, by rescinding days from their commitment, as follows:  Lynda Clouse, 3 days; Ralph Davison, 3 days; Camilla Jones, 10 days; Jeff Martin, 2 days; Heather Snelson, 2 days; B.J. Sterling, 10 days; Julie Taylor, 3 days; Wendy Thompson, 3 days; LeeAnn Tomlinson, 6 days; Don Yarger, 3 days; and Connie Lee, 5 days.

Board members opted to change drivers on bus route #13. The vote on the issue was 6-0, as board member Regina Porter was excused from the discussion and vote.

Board member Larry Silvey was absent from the public segment of the board meeting; however, Silvey participated in the closed session business items via telecon­ferencing capabilities.

The board also accepted three letters of resignation which had been submitted by Harold (Junior) Smith, maintenance; Sefora Billups, high school science; and Keven McKee, high school science.

The 2012-13 school calendar was adopted as proposed and presented by Supt. Brian Wilson.

In the discussion, Wilson noted a survey of students, teachers and staff members found that 80% of the students wanted senior graduation ceremonies to be held on a Friday next year; and 45% of the staff and other polled designated Saturday as the preferred date.  Wilson said the school would try to accommodate the students by setting graduation on Friday, May 17, on the calendar.  In the fall, school is slated to start on Wednesday, Aug. 15.  Motions to accept the 2012-13 calendar as presented were given by Johnny Burkdoll and Marsha Aborn.  The vote was 6-0.

Following the rec­ommendations offered by the school’s insurance committee, the board voted to maintain present policies, even though a 10-percent rate increase will be a factor for the 2012-13 year.  Motions to accept the plans were made by Marsha Aborn and Pat Henry, and the vote was 6-0.

The depository agreement with Great Southern Bank was extended for another year in a 6-0 vote.

David Williams, assistant high school principal, gave a presentation on the school-wide positive behavior supports, or school-wide PBS.

Williams noted the program will kick-off in the fall for the 2012-13 school year, and the program entails a pro-active approach to discipline rather than a reactive methodology. He said the program teaches seven components of positive behavior, while emphasizing conduct students should be able to self-manage.

Funding continues to be an on-going issue and unresolved topic for the board. With current economic problems in the forefront, Dr. Wilson continued to report on the potential budget modifications for 2012-13 and how school expenses continue to exceed revenue streams. In the presentation, Wilson reported stimulus funds from 2011-12 are practically depleted, and because of shortfalls in the Missouri budget for  2012-13, additional stimulus fund programs are not being offered.

Wilson noted 35 percent of the school’s funding comes from a local levy rate of $2.75; state funding provides 45 percent, and federal funds 18 percent.  Staff salaries and benefits account for 73 percent of the district budget, as Ava R-1 is at the top of the SCA Conference in salaries, except for one area.

Wilson said downturns in student enrollment, the loss of transportation revenues, and rising cost factors, such as, utilities and wages, have had an impact.   In addition, the school budget is also dealing with costs associated with the Performing Arts Center for $250,000 in 2008; and energy improvements made in 2006 totaling $86,000.

Wilson stated the present goal of the administration is to continue to provide a quality education, while simultaneously reducing spending and offsetting costs

Middle school Principal Cody Hirschi reported students in middle school celebrated the birthday of Dr. Seuss by participating in the “Read From Coast To Coast” challenge.  Students read and passed quizzes on 1,139 books, with the average test score 86 percent.  Hirschi said students read over 17 million words, and celebrated at the end of the day with an assembly and cupcakes.

Middle school MAP tests will be April 16–20, with the 5th – 8th grade students tested in Communi­cation Arts and mathematics.  The fifth and eighth-grade classes will test in science as well.

High school Principal Teresa Nash said the mock crash scene docudrama for high school students will take place on Wednesday, March 28, at the school.  The docu­drama is a realistic performance that demonstrates the harsh realities of driving carelessly unfocused, and the sometime devastating conse­quences associated with the action.  Local officials, law enforcement, medical personnel and many high school students will have a part in the staged production.

Nash also noted FCCLA is hosting Safe and Sober Prom Night for juniors and seniors March 27.

In elementary, Principal Diane Premer complimented Mrs. Ewing’s fourth-grade class for earning the February high attendance party, a repeat performance for the class.   The students had perfect attendance, 10 out of 19 days for the month.

Premer said the elementary has received a “matching fund grant” for five interactive white boards.  The grant will also provide two hours of professional development for teachers.  She noted money from the school carnival and other fundraisers go toward purchasing additional interactive boards for next year.

David Williams, director of The Bears Den, reports the Bears Den is offering a free program for 1st – 4th grade students and their parents, the program offers tips and help for strengthening family relationships and bonds.  The sessions will offer guidance on how to talk to children when setting family boundaries and rules, and show children how they can interact better with parents.  The first class starts on Monday, March 19, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., with BJ Sterling.  The Monday program will run for seven weeks.

Monty Valentine, maintenance supervisor, noted dates are being set for winches to be installed on basketball backstops, and schedules are in the works for sealing school parking lots.  The crew has also started setting up and readying the athletic field for track and baseball.

Jonathan Talley, a representative from Drury College, presented a new program of dual enrollment for Ava students. Classes offered under the program will include College Math (Algebra) 109, Biology in Contemporary World, History 101, and Chemistry 103, which includes a lab class.  Talley said this new program is very affordable for students as the day classes cost approximately $65 / credit hour, and book fees are included.  Class credit hours are universally transferable to other local schools, such as MSU.

The board adopted the program for 2012-13 with a vote of 5-0. Motions to implement the program were from Burkdoll and Porter. Marsha Aborn was excused from the discussion and vote.

Twenty-three policy revisions, all of which were recommended by the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA), were adopted as presented.  Seventeen of the revisions were the result of state or federal legislation.

The policy headings listed below offer insight into the subject matter revised or changed by the board, and the topics are:  prohibition against discrimina­tion, harassment and re­taliation; district wellness program; fiscal responsibility – fraud preven­tion; fiscal accounting – clarifies commitment to GASB (Govern­mental Accounting Standards Board); surplus distribution policy; building and grounds maintenance (safe pest management and cleaning products);  traffic and parking (disa­bility parking);  animals on property (therapy, service, law enforcement, and instructional); technology (in­ternet safety); insurance manage­ment (rescind);  property & liability insurance; criminal background checks;  professional staff short-term leaves and absences;  suspen­sion of professional staff members;  support staff leaves and absences;  academic calendar / year / day; dis­trict-sponsored extracurricular ac­tivities and groups;  student initiated group use of district facilities K-12; Interscholastic athletics (MSBA recommends rescind);  ceremonies and observances (disability history and awareness month);  reporting and investigating child abuse / ne­glect;  community use of district facility;  visitors to district property / events.   The motions to adopt the policy changes were made by Ron Wallace and Johnny Burkdoll.  The vote was 6-0.

Last Thursday, the Ava Board Spotlight recognized two groups –– Ava’s financial institutions for their support to school programs, and the elementary teacher support team.

Banks acknowledged for support to students were Town & Country Bank, Great Southern Bank, First Home Savings Bank and Century Bank.

The school board will reorganize on Tuesday April 10, 6:30 p.m., and reconvene for the monthly meeting on Thursday, April 19, 6:30 p.m.

Both meetings will be held in the board of education meeting room.