By Sue Curry Jones
Information released on Tuesday, Sept. 20, by the Ava School Board and Assistant Superintendent Mike Henry, reveals the board of education has placed Superintendent Dr. Nancy Lawler on paid leave of absence.
At 3:24 p.m. Tuesday, the Herald received the following statement in an email signed by Henry:
“At the Ava R-I School Board meeting held on Thursday, Sept. 15, the Board of Education voted to place Dr. Lawler on a paid leave of absence. The Board’s action was taken to refocus the School District on the education of its students. At present, the length of the leave has not been determined, but this time will provide the Board with the opportunity to assess the educational leadership currently in place. As the School Board moves forward with its review, additional information will be shared with the community.”
According to Henry, the board vote was 4-2 with Randy Spurlock, Marsha Aborn, Lowell Strong and Troy Tredway in favor of the action, and Ron Wallace and Vernon Johnson against. Bart Ellison was absent.
Approximately 45 people attended open session, as the board room was filled with residents, parents, school personnel, staff, and current and retired bus route owners, and family members.
At the onset of the session, under public comments, three individuals stepped up to address the board.
First to speak was Douglas County resident Wayne William Cipriano, who immediately expressed a thank you to Marsha Aborn, Lowell Strong, Troy Tredway and Randy Spurlock for their open response to questions posed by Bryan Etheridge during the August 8 meeting. The four board members responded to Etheridge’s remarks in the August 18 meeting, and Cipriano said he wanted them to know how much he appreciated their public response. He also noted he would have liked a response from the other three board members as well.
In addition, Cipriano expressed his sentiment that each board member represents the public, and the public needs to know and understand the information shared between board members and the administration. He advised, “We want to hear the conversational interactions. It is important for those of us who attend these meetings to be able to hear the proceedings and understand what is going on.”
Ava R-I parents Jimmy and Joanna Lafferty expressed concern about the additional time their children are now spending on their school bus route. This term, Lafferty said, the children are meeting the bus 30-35 minutes earlier than last year, and they arrive home each afternoon 30-35 minutes later. Lafferty said family time is important, and under the current pick-up / drop-off times, the schedule is cutting into family time, as well as chores and homework. The Laffertys observed none of the board members have children riding a bus, and asked the board to fix the problem.
Lionel Potter validated busing concerns by stating the revised schedule is difficult for his family as well, as they are “dragging a five-year-old out of bed at 6:10 a.m.” Potter said last year the standard pick-up time was around 7:00 a.m. and it did not vary, but this year it is much earlier and yet, the youth arrives at school the same time as last year.
In addition, Potter said bus route owner Roger Sanders goes down his road just ¾-mile from his house, and at a more reasonable time. But, when Potter inquired about the other bus as an option for his students, adminis-trators were not accommodating or helpful. He said something needs to be done.
School Board President Randy Spurlock advised concerned parents a special board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 6:00 p.m., and bus routes will be evaluated at that time. He noted student pick-up/drop-off points and routes will be reviewed and possibly reconfigured. During the meeting, it was also noted three maintenance workers and a custodian are presently driving student routes, as a temporary fix.
The session on bus routes will be held in the board meeting room.
In the District Spotlight, the board recognized two high school teachers, Coach Liz Kyger and high school English teacher Airin Bassett, for recent achievements and outstanding accomplishments.
Coach Kyger was acknowledged for attaining her third national cham-pionship title after competing in the 5k at the USATF Masters National Track and Field Championships in Grand Rapids, Mich. Since turning 50 years of age, Kyger has earned two other national championship gold medals, twice in the national Senior Olympics. She has also broken eight Missouri state records. Kyger has won 18 state titles, two in the Illinois State Senior Games, 14 in the Missouri State Senior Games, and four in the Missouri State Show-Me Games.
High school English teacher Airin Bassett was acknowledged for her recent nomination as a candidate for the 2016 Regional Teacher of the Year award. The program, sponsor-ed by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, will select 32 teachers for the award in July 2017.
The Community Spotlight honored the congregation of Highway Church of the Nazarene and Pastor Mark Hatcher, for coming together at the beginning of the term and delivering encouragements to staff members. The Church was also recognized for their continuous support of students and school staff. A certificate of appreciation was presented to Pastor Mark Hatcher, Kyger and Bassett.
In a 6-0 vote, monthly bills totaling $377,608.45 were approved for payment.
President Randy Spurlock noted Logan Little, student representative to the school board, will be speaking at the Missouri School Board Assn. Annual Conference October 1. During the forum, Little will join Spurlock at the podium, along with former student representative Lacy Diel, and together as a group, they will present information about the student representative program.
A 6-0 vote approved Les Hallmark as a driver for the route recently sold to Rhonda Heath, of Ava, from Ann and Randy Duckworth. Duckworth previously operated Route No. 8. Motions to approve were by Aborn and Johnson.
Graduation was set for Saturday, May 13, at 7:00 p.m. The ceremony will be held at Silvey Field, weather permitting.
In a 6-0 vote of approval, a bid for a wireless radio system for buses was accepted. Prior to accepting the bid from Radiophone Wireless, several questions were posed.
Assistant Superintendent Mike Henry advised the lowest bids was on an analog system that is inadequate for school needs. From the three bids collected, Henry advocated the offer from Radiophone Wireless Solu-tions, in Springfield, Mo.
Henry noted the radios will mount on the side of the bus through a window, and the system includes 20 bus radios with antenna kits, and 10 handheld radios for staff. According to the proposal, the radios are non-GPS capable. Henry also said the City of Ava has given permission for the system repeater to be installed on the water tower, south of Ava.
Radiophone equipment costs were $17,963.50, but $7,045.00 was added for other services, such as licensing, mapping, installation and travel. The total cost is $25,008.50. Additional bid submissions were received from Communications Asso., $23,343.70, and an analog system from Motorola, $17,660.50,
Radios were originally considered for safety in case a bus broke down or an emergency ensued. However, in the board discussion last Thursday, it was noted the handheld units will be used for monitoring, and that task will be done by administrators and principals. Lowell Strong inquired, “who will be monitoring the system at 6:00 a.m. when early bus routes are already underway?”
Strong commented the purpose of having a system is defeated if no one is monitoring morning drive time [between 6:00-7:15 a.m.] and stands ready to assist a bus driver(s) with a breakdown or problem. If no one is listening during early hours, then the system is not useful.
Henry said, “principals and admin-istrators most generally arrive on campus around 7:15 a.m.”
Tredway posed the question again, “when will monitoring begin?” and, even though a plan was not reached, it was understood that the early bus routes would be monitored.
Strong also stated he would like to see the Global Positioning System (GPS) working efficiently before additional funds were expended on another system.
Johnson added one advantage of the radio system will be the ability to check for students, their location, and what bus they are riding.
In a 6-0 vote, the board accepted the Radiophone bid, with motions by Wallace and Johnson.
A bid from ShoreTel, an Internet Provider PBX telephone system, was also approved by the board in a 6-0 vote.
According to Technology Director Jon Doane, Ava R-I received bids from three vendors and ShoreTel was the lowest bidder. The new phone system should arrive in 4-6 weeks, and includes 270 telephones, fax controllers, routers, switches, and a good warranty. Equipment costs for the system totaled $82,658.60; however, Doane suggested setting aside an additional $17,500 for unforeseen costs or installation problems.
A roof housekeeping and repair agreement with Stiles Roofing, of Lebanon, Mo., was accepted in a 6-0 vote. The maintenance agreement is a one-year contract, renewable for five-years, and costs $14,000. Under the roof maintenance plan, Stiles will inspect the roofs semi-annually and perform maintenance work needed to protect the system from premature deterioration, defects, and leaks. According to Dr. Nancy Lawler, the agreement covers the rubber, metal, and tar roofs, and minor repairs. She advised money had been budgeted for the expense.
The board also accepted the district assessment plan, the professional development program review, and the early retirement policy, which is renewed annually.
Assistant Superintendent Mike Henry reported the teaching staff is completing initial testing of students to provide a benchmark. He noted the MAP/EOC information is still being analyzed, and new standards are now in place and teachers are presently working to align lessons to standards. At each grade level, teachers are selecting essential skills to be mastered in their classroom.
During the student testing update, Henry praised Michell King, eighth grade math teacher, for consistently having a classroom of students that attain high test scores.
Henry also noted the school’s annual performance report will not be released until November.
The board will hold a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 6:00 p.m. to review bus routes and discuss possible changes. The regular monthly meeting will convene on Thursday, Oct. 20, 6:30 p.m. Both sessions will take place in the board of education meeting room, on the north side of the Decker Library.
Meetings are open to the public.