Ava R-1 School Board Votes to Censure Candidate, Removes Candidate Forum from School Grounds
The Ava R-1 School Board convened for their regular monthly meeting last Thursday, March 18th.
The school has not yet provided closed session notes for the meeting.
Payment of Bills
The board voted to authorize payment of bills. The authorization was split into two votes to allow board members with potential conflicts of interest to abstain from voting.
The board heard reports from the leader of each school or department.
Dr. Clint Hall reported being part of a recent Mayoral Proclamation designating the month of April as “Child Abuse Prevention Month.”
Ava Middle School Principal Patricia Nelson described the creation of a student good deed award program.
Dr. Teresa Nash, Ava High School Principal, reported that four high school students were recently recognized at the Ava Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Two were Academic Students of the Month and two were Citizens of the Month.
Director Yvonne Honnerkamp reported that the school lunchroom had catered the Chamber of Commerce meeting, and her department had made 9,000 meals in February. She said her numbers keep going up, and board members commented that they were hearing positive comments from both parents and students about the school-prepared meals.
Dr. Dial reported that Maintenance Director Monty Valentine was doing well after recent knee surgery.
Dr. Dial reported that Governor Parson had released $125 Million in funds for public schools. He said the ESSER-3 plan approved $#2 Billion for Missouri public schools. He expected Ava Schools would see 2-3x the funds that ESSER-2 provided, which would amount to approximately $3.5 Million. He said the school would have until September 2023 to spend those funds.
Assistant Superintendent Aaron Dial reported that the school had approximately 70 students choosing to attend virtually. He said the school planned a survey to find out what those students wanted to do next year. Dalton said the school spends approximately $75,000 – $100,000 to serve those students with online curriculum.
Dalton reported conversations with Drury University regarding the possibility of night classes in Ava allowing students to earn certifications that would qualify them immediately for jobs in the workplace.
Dr. Dial reported that it had been weeks since the school had quarantined students for COVID-19. He said the school was starting to look at what to do if a similar situation came up again.
Board member Bart Ellison was absent, so each action item got 6 votes total.
The board voted 6-0 to approve a 5-day school week for the 2021/2022 school year. The start date would August 23rd, and the end date would be May 20th. It will be a traditional calendar with one week of Spring Break and two weeks off for Christmas.
Summer School Dates
The board voted 6-0 to approve summer school dates of May 24th through July 2nd.
Discussion: Health Insurance
Dr. Dial explained an alternative Health Care Consortium being considered as a provider for school employees. The new consortium would consist of only healthy schools in Southwest Missouri, and it would be a smaller consortium allowing each school to have more say in decision making.
Dial said the initial cost savings would be minimal, but would be expected to grow over time.
No vote was taken, the board instead recommended that Dial continue to pursue and research the option.
Discussion: ESSER Two Funds
Ava Schools will receive $1,792 Million in ESSER-Two funds. Dr. Dial presented the board with a list of 15 projects that money could possibly be used to fund. Included in that list were replacement of 55 aging HVAC units, adding air conditioning to the elementary school gym, removal of all asbestos from the elementary school, etc. The board received a document from a teacher representative requesting that either ESSER funds or monies displaced by ESSER funds be used to improve teacher retention by increasing their pay.
The board had a lengthy discussion about the challenges of doing that in way that was sustainable in an ongoing fashion, even when additional ESSER or COVID funds weren’t expected to come in.
Dr. Dial said the he and the board would continue to evaluate the situation and develop a plan.
Creation of School Supply Cabinets
Board Member Deana Parsick commented that she was hearing reports of teachers needing to purchase school supplies (like tissue) with their own money. She proposed that the school create and stock supply closets in each building to prevent that from happening. The board approved the motion 6-0.
Ava resident Samantha Holt read a statement to the board concerning the January 2019 Transpar study co-funded by the school and Ava Bus Route Owners Association. Based on documents Holt attained via a Sunshine Request, her statement alleged the study wasn’t performed either independently or transparently. She included several email exchanges between Ava Schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Dial and Transpar employees, in which Dial appears to influence the contents of the study.
Holt commented that she spoke up because “the truth needs to come out so the community can start healing.”
Samantha Holt’s comments to the board:
Dan Johnson Board Report
Board Member Dan Johnson noted this was the last meeting before the board would be reorganized after the April election, so wanted to report on what this board had accomplished. Included in his list were:
- Selecting the lowest bid for school auditor which both put the board in compliance with its own policies and saved the school $20,000.
- Settled the legal dispute between the bus route owners and the school district.
- Put security cameras on the buses to help with safety issues and project both the school and bus drivers from liability issues.
- Increase substitute teacher pay
- Gave teachers new sick pay options and changed other aspects of the sick time policy to favor teachers.
- Replaced outdated computers in use by teachers.
- Installed 90 new smart boards.
- Gave a $1000 stipend to certified staff and Christmas turkeys to hourly staff.
- Started a school-operated cafeteria that has increased participation by 50%.
Dan Johnson’s complete comments to the board:
The board discussed a preference to finding a local school attorney. Dr. Dial said he would reach out to a past Ava graduate he knew of that was practicing in the area.
Board member Troy Tredway reported that on February 22nd, school board candidate Seth Thompson sent two mass emails to all school teachers and staff in which he promoted himself as a candidate.
Tredway read several board policies he felt had been violated by Thompson, and moved to have the board initiate a letter of censure to Thompson, as well as file a report with the Missouri Campaign Ethics Committee.
The board approved the motion with Johnson, Parsick, Tredway and Strong voting yes. Board members Henry and Stanifer abstained, citing reservations about the lack of time to review the board policies before the vote.
The board brought up the recent announcement of a School Board Candidate Forum, sponsored by the Community Teachers Association (CTA) and scheduled to be held on school grounds. The board expressed confusion over who the CTA was, what type of organization it was, whether it had officers and meetings, etc. Teachers in the audience explained that it was an informal group that basically collected modest dues from each teacher that were given away as a scholarship to a graduating senior at the end of the school year.
Several teachers spoke, some apparently not aware of the efforts to schedule the candidate forum, feeling like they weren’t given the chance to submit questions for the candidates, or having any say in who would moderate the event.
Also of issue was the use by the CTA of school letterhead, envelopes, and postage to announce the forum to candidates. Dr. Dial claimed responsibility for allowing that, saying he would reimburse the school.
The board communicated that in order to comply with campaign-related policies and to maintain a fair election, they didn’t want the candidate forum held on school property. They requested the group find an alternative venue.
View the video footage of the meeting on DouglasCountyHerald.com.
The next school board meeting will be held on April 15th at 6:15 PM (note earlier time for the post-election board reorganization).