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Ava R-I Approves Roofing Project, Gym Bleachers and Cost of Living Increase

By Sue Curry Jones

The Ava R-I Board of Education voted on a number of employee job responsibilities and sponsorships during the closed session segment of the Thursday, June 15 meeting.  In open session, the board took action on 15 separate items, with each one pertaining to the upcoming fall term.  A budget for the 2017-18 school year was adopted as well.

The closed session report gave the following decisions for the 2017-18 school year:

  • The board accepted a retirement resignation from Susan Trowbridge, elementary science teacher;
  • Trish Haltom will serve as Quiz Bowl sponsor;
  • Melissa Tate will serve as Key Club sponsor. She will also share in the sponsorship responsibilities for junior class fundraising, and junior class prom;
  • Airin Bassett will sponsor video production and year book;
  • Janell Embrey will sponsor Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA);
  • Westin Loftin, who was initially high school football assistant, will instead serve as assistant to middle school football;
  • Brandy Harvill will be the girls’ high school basketball team assistant. Harvill was previously announced as assistant to the girls’ middle school basketball team.
  • Lacey Roberts will assume middle school girls’ basketball.

All but one board member voted to renew the 2017-18 bus agreement contracts with the contracted bus owners. Superintendent Jason Dial said the monthly base rate for next year contains a 2.3 percent increase which adds $27.51 to the base and increases last year’s $1,196.07 rate to $1,223.58.  The bus owners will also receive a slight increase in mileage allotments, with dirt miles moving from $2.63 to $2.65, and paved miles from $1.87 to $1.88.

Dr. Dial noted the busses cover 443.9 dirt miles, and 646.2 paved miles.

Motions to accept the new rate agreement for next year were by Lowell Strong and Vernon Johnson.

Michael Stewart voted against the student busing contract, as the vote was 6-1.

Dial stated that despite a recent television station’s news report on Ava’s busing inspections, all 31 school buses passed the current highway patrol inspection and are safe for use. He noted some buses were cited for items such as marred seat padding, burned-out bulbs or mirror problems, but none of the buses were tagged or taken out of service.  Dial reassured the notations were minor and most of the issues have already been repaired.

He said the district owns nine buses and the remaining 22 buses are contracted through local owners, a list also approved by the board in the meeting.  The local owners are:  Gary Harvill, Sanders Busing (buses No. 2, No. 6), MR Ranch (No. 3, No. 12, No. 13), Billy Holt, Dwain Turner, Rhonda Heath, Jan Turner, Randy Jenkins, JM Transportation, Jerry Wagner, Larry Vinson, Dwayne Nash Transportation, CM Transpor-tation, and Brenda Miller.  Approved drivers are: Becky Nelson, Barbara Sanders, Cathy Marriott, Dustin Mitchell, Butch Sisco, Sam Evans, Kurt Lowe, Walt Walters, and sub drivers, Phillip McFarlin, Mick Swofford, Casey Johnson, Brian Sarson, Terry Wilson, and James Storie.

The board adopted the 2017-18 certified salary schedule which includes an additional step to benefit staff members who have attained more education or a higher number of service years.  The budget also includes a 2.3% pay increase for certified administrators and staff, and non-certified staff members as well.

In conjunction with the pay raise, the board also approved spending $450 per month, per employee, for medical health care premiums.   This assists with the six-percent increase in costs.

Motions to adopt the salary plan and insurance benefit were made by Troy Tredway and Mark Henry.  The vote was 7-0.

In a 7-0 vote, the board adopted a $578,000 deficit budget, a factor that Dr. Dial stated would change when state funding comes through.  In the meantime, he advised the board must move forward with the budget.  Overall, Dial said the district is “in good shape, but needs to be careful when spending.”

In the budget message, Dial noted the 2017-18 numbers are based on assumptions, and those expectations include a projection that Douglas County will show as much as a 12% increase in assessed valuation this year, as this is a re-assessment year. However, Dial acknowledged that the number he used for budget pur-poses was a conservative six-percent increase in valuation. The budget also cites a federal revenue drop of $50,000 for the 2017-18 year.

Referencing expenses, Dial said the budget reflects a cost factor of $100,000 for continuing Bears Den, the after-school program; however, if the district’s grant application for funding is approved, the entry will be amended to reflect receipt of federal monies.  Other expenditures include improvements to specific areas of the elementary roof, $205,000; baseball field lighting, $30,000, and new bleachers for the middle school gymnasium, $30,000.

The budget was approved in a 7-0 vote, with motions from Michael Stewart and Kenny Fleetwood.

In a 7-0 vote, the board also gave Dial permission to transfer $1 million from Fund 1 to Fund 4.

The board voted 7-0 to amend the

2016-17 budget by recapping the real numbers.  This action adjusts fund balances to reflect what was actually spent and received during the school year, amending the original budget projections. The action also closes out the 2016-17 financial year.

The board approved the purchase of two residential lots which adjoin the school bus parking area, on the southeast side. The properties are located on Pennington Street, house numbers 400 and 402.  The school is purchasing both locations for a total cost of $40,000, with closing to occur prior to July 1.

Lunch prices for the upcoming year were increased 10-cents.  Milk prices, however, will remain constant at 40-cents per carton, and breakfast offerings will continue to be free.

Starting in August, lunch prices will be as follows: elementary – reduced 40¢, and full $1.70; middle / high school – reduced 40¢, and full $1.85; adult breakfast, $1.65; adult lunch, $2.35.

A roofing project for the elemen-tary building was approved in a 7-0 vote.  The improvement plan entails re-coating the roof on the kinder-garten wing, and replacing the roof over the third-grade wing and kitchen area.  The project is slated to cost $205,000, and Stiles Roofing of Springfield is being considered for the job.    In the middle school, the board okayed spending $17,000 to replace the gym bleachers.  Accord-ing to Dial, the present bleachers are old and in significant need of repair.  He noted supports and rollers under-neath the bleachers are broken and failing. Heartland Seating, a firm specializing in spectator seating, was recommended for the job.

The new bleacher set includes the installation of three motors, which will allow the seating area to be fully automated and easily retracted.

The board also approved changes to the school’s wellness policy, a policy originally reviewed during the May board meeting.  The changes are detailed below in a write-up provided by the School Wellness Committee.  The article is as follows:

Wellness Policy Changes and Updates, June 2017

“The U.S. Department of Agri-culture, (USDA), the federal agency that oversees the federal school nutrition programs, recently passed new regulations implementing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  These new regulations became effective on August 28, 2016.   According to the regulations, school districts must fully comply with the new regulations by June 30, 2017.

“During the Board of Education meeting Thursday, June 15 the Ava R-I Board of Education approved the new regulations for our district wellness policy.

“One of the major changes required by the new rules is that school districts must have “standards for all foods and beverages provided, but not sold, to students during the school day.  The new regulation states….

“All foods and beverages the district provides or makes available to students during the school day will meet or exceed the Smart Snacks nutrition standards.  This includes, but is not limited to, foods and beverages provided or made available to students for celebrations, classroom parties and birthdays, regardless of the source of the food. The district will provide parents/ guardians and district employees a list of foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks nutrition standards and a list of healthy party ideas, including nonfood celebration ideas.

“Foods and beverages should not be used as a reward or withheld as punishment.

“Other new regulations that were not already included in our current Wellness Policy include;

  • Policies for food and beverage marketing and advertising of only those foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.
  • Description of public involve-ment, public updates, policy leader-ship and an evaluation plan.

“The Ava R-I District Wellness Committee also asked the board for approval of the following two additions to our local wellness policy.

“Two or more healthy options will be made available to the public at concession stands.  Water will be sold at a lower price than other beverages sold at concession stands.

“Students will be allowed to take water into the classroom, provided that the water is in a clear, non-breakable, capped container, such as a water bottle to prevent spills.

“The board approved these additions to the wellness policy as well as the USDA required updates.”

The wellness policy updates were adopted with a unanimous vote of the school board.

The board approved student hand-books as presented with changes.  According to Dr. Dial, revisions were minimal.

The board authorized payment of monthly bills totaling $150,116.45. The board also gave Dial permission to pay the bills next month, as it was deemed a meeting was not needed in July.  Dial said the bills will be emailed to the board for review and prior to payment.

Board members attending were Troy Tredway, Vernon Johnson, Bart Ellison, Kenny Fleetwood, Michael Stewart, Mark Henry and Lowell Strong.  Student representative, Dwight Emerson, was absent.

With cancellation of the July meeting, the board will reconvene on Thursday, August 17, at 6:30 p.m.  The tax rate hearing will begin at 6:15 p.m., just prior to the regular business session.