The Ava R-I School Board accepted two retirement resignations last Thursday evening during closed session. Nancy Ewing, who is presently a kindergarten teacher, tendered her resignation effective at the conclusion of this school term, and Sue Thomas, an aide in the middle school will also retire at the end of this school year. According to Superintendent Dr. Jason Dial, Ewing has 30-plus years of experience in the field of education.
During closed, the board also voted to hire retired school teacher Gail Davidson as high school special education teacher, filling the slot vacated by Doris Chunn. Dr. Dial said the administration gained approval from all the appropriate agencies prior to asking Davidson to take the position in the high school. He noted the slot was also filled in conjunction with the critical teacher shortage rule.
In voting action, the board opted to renew the Flex Plan, Section 125, which allows school employees to pay certain qualified expenses, such as health insurance premiums, on a pretax basis. By engaging in this format, the plan reduces the total taxable income amount for those who sign-up for the benefit. The motion to adopt was approved by Mark Henry and Michael Stewart, and the vote was unanimous.
Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program was introduced to board members as a future option for consideration. In the presentation, high school principal Dr. Teresa Nash noted the program offers up to $30,000 in grant opportunities for at-risk students. The funds are used to support students moving from high school to a career, or from high school to secondary training. Nash noted JAG is a multi-year program, with the capability to assist 35 students, with 45 students the maximum number served. The program focuses on career /job development programs, and community service.
Dr. Nash said she recently visited with West Plains and Lebanon and their programs focus on soft skills, and work base skills, respectively.
She advised that if the board chose to get involved in the program, and a grant was awarded to Ava, the school would have the ability to design their own program, with the flexibility to meet the needs of local students. Dr. Nash advised the program tracks students for one-year after completing high school, and the initiative is also backed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the government.
School board members selected Stephen Copeland as Ava’s candidate representative for the John T. Belcher Scholarship award competition. For the statewide competition, applicants are judged on the basis of academic performance, extracurricular activities and quality of their essay, which was instrumental in the board’s selection last Thursday. At the regional level, Copeland has the opportunity to win a $1000 annual scholarship award, and if selected to move on to the statewide competition, Copeland will vie against 17 regional student representatives for the opportunity to win an additional $1500. In past years, the local Belcher Scholarship winner has received a $250 gift from the board.
Assistant Superintendent Aaron Dalton provided an overview of federal programs presently in place, noting Title I, which is predominately used in the elementary and middle school; Title 2A, used for professional development venues for staff; and Title 4 funds which cover topics such as health and safety issues, drug awareness, and technology in classrooms.
Dalton said the school had recently conducted a survey of over 1000 people in an effort to help build the budget priorities for next year. He cited three areas of focus consistently re-occurred in the feedback which highlighted the following: curriculum instruction, high quality professional staff members, and focusing on student achievements. Dalton advised the federal program analysis is a process that continues throughout the school year as administrators continue to look at how monies are spent, and evaluating reading intervention programs as well as hiring additional staff to lower classroom numbers.
The federal program review was approved in a 7-0 vote, with motions from Mark Henry and Michael Stewart.
Dalton also gave an overview of the A+ Scholarship program which allows high school students to attain scholarship funds to attend a participating public community college or vocational/technical school for two-years. To qualify students must maintain a 2.5 grade point average, fulfill a 95-percent attendance rate, and complete 50 hours of peer tutoring while in school. He noted four-year colleges have started offering incentives to appeal to A+ students, expanding their opportunities.
The board adopted the federal program review in a 7-0 vote.
Athletic Director Rex Sawyer reported student involvement numbers in athletics continue to remain steady, varying little with only a 2-3 student count difference. Sawyer stated the school has a solid coaching staff, and the team sport venues this year have done well, mentioning accomplishments of the high school football team, and the girls volleyball team. In conjunction with Sawyer’s assessment, Dr. Teresa Nash said the high school has 97 percent participation in extra or co-curricular activities, and this high level of participation is a plus for the school and students, as these organizations set rules and guidelines for student membership or participation, and many clubs include community service projects as well.
Sawyer also extended appreciation to the Douglas County Herald and KKOZ for coverage of student sporting events, noting the season received excellent coverage.
Superintendent Dr. Jason Dial reported budget numbers have not changed, and the district remains $118,00 ahead in revenue. The tuition target remains unmoved at $6,281 per student, and even though the numbers are currently strong, he expressed concern about the state revenue funding for 2019. He said the State is $50 million behind in tax collections, and with three major tax cuts going into effect in January, there is no doubt these changes will impact the revenue stream. In addition, he noted the Department of Revenue published incorrect tax tables earlier this year, with the oversight finally corrected in October. He noted this error will likely impact several district employees as their withholding for the year may not be adequate.
Camryn Lee, student representative to the school board, provided an overview of the One-to-One initiative of providing laptop computers and Internet access to students for use at home and school. Lee said the survey garnered 302 responses about the Chromebook offering to students, and overall, the findings were positive. The survey noted 77 percent of students answered they had the skills needed to participate in the program, and 51 percent cited they were more organized with the Chromebook capability.
Camryn, who has been student representative to the school board since January, completed her term Thursday evening. Next year, during the January 17, 2019 school board meeting, Paige Kimmons will assume the duty as student ambassador to the board.
The Board Spotlight recognized Ava’s four All-State football players, Kayden Myers, a junior; Stephen Copeland, senior; Caleb Johnson, senior; and Iveck Chittenden, senior. School counselors were also recognized for their involvement and implementation of the Signs of Suicide Prevention Program (S.O.S.) on campus. The program is a school-based depression and suicide prevention program that has been implemented this school year.
Board members present were Kenny Fleetwood, Mark Henry, Bart Ellison, Michael Stewart, Lowell Strong, Troy Tredway, and Deana Parsick.
Meeting video may be viewed on the Douglas County Herald website.
The board will reconvene Thursday, Jan. 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the Board of Education room adjacent to the Decker Library. Visitors enter from the parking lot on the north side of the building. Meetings are open to the public.