Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TOP STORY >> Designation of distress challenged

By JEFFREY SMITH Leader staff writer

Beebe School District assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum Scott Embrey informed the school board on Monday that the district will go to the state Board of Education on Thursday to appeal the designation of Badger Academy, which the state has declared is in academic distress.

Embrey, along with superintendent Belinda Shook, Badger Academy Principal Keith Madden and several Badger Academy students, will speak during the appeal.

Badger Academy is a conversion charter school that has an alternative learning environment for at-risk students. There are 26 full-time students and around 60 students who are seen each day at the school.

“The district is doing great things at Badger Academy. The designation is not a fair representation of one test score and what is happening at the school,” Embrey said.

Shook said the district could drop the Local Education Agency number at Badger Academy and count those students as part of the overall student enrollment, the academy’s test scores would be absorbed and would not be failing.

“If we drop our LEA number, then we drop our conversion charter and we can’t do things like the Second Chance program. (An opportunity for adults ages 18 to 21 to earn a Beebe High School diploma). We are helping kids. We want to tell the story,” Shook said.

“Every school in a school district has a Local Education Agency number. If Badger Academy was not a conversion charter school with a separate LEA number, then the student’s test scores would be included in the main building,” Shook said.

“The numbers would blend in, causing very little difference. Because Badger Academy has its own LEA number, the scores are kept separate and caused it to qualify for academic distress. Badger Academy had 33 test scores over a three-year period,” she explained. And, some years, only one or two students are tested at Badger Academy.

In other business, the board approved of hiring E-Rate Exchange as a consultant for $1,750 a year, $500 in administrative fees and 3 percent of the E-Rate funding the company can get the district for technology.

E-Rate is program under the Federal Communications Commission that aids schools and libraries with phone and Internet services. Money is collected under the Universal Service Fund charged on customer’s phone and Internet service bills.

Assistant superintendent for business Rick Duff said, in the past, the district had received $20,000 to $30,000 a year. “We have the potential of getting $350,000 to $400,000 over a five-year period of time. It’s not guaranteed, but we are hoping to get a large portion. It is going to be used for infrastructure, networking and wiring,” Duff said.

He said the district needed to hire a consulate to help with forms, papers and timelines to be followed for the E-Rate program.

School board member Clay Goff, who is chairman of the White County Regional Library System, said that system uses E-Rate Exchange consulting.

Board members also approved the purchase of one school bus, one van and one truck. The district received a bid price of $104,468 for the bus. Shook said the district usually replaces two buses a year. But, since the bus fleet is in good condition, only one bus was needed.

The board approved the purchase of a HVAC control system for the middle school for $27,000; ChromeBook laptop computers for the 11-12 High School Building for $26,028 and $13,890 in football equipment for the 2015-16 school year.

Board members approved the resignation of Beebe Elementary principal Cathy Payne. She is retiring at the end of the school year after 25 years with the Beebe and McRae School Districts.

“I appreciated working with her over the years. She came with the annexation (of McRae). She had worked at the high school to the elementary, wherever we asked her to. She going to be missed,” superintendent Shook said.

Also resigning are high school counselor Connie Sheren and family and consumer science teacher Deborah Knox.

Three Beebe Junior High eighth graders were honored during the board meeting.

Emily Humphrey was recognized for winning the White County Spelling Bee Contest.

Sylvia Bruce and Grace Hutchinson were recognized as winners of the statewide Youth Art Month flag competition. Bruce was the grand-prize winning artist and won a trip to New York City. Her design will be turned into a flag representing Arkansas at the YAM national convention in New Orleans in March.

Hutchinson placed fourth. Both students’ artwork will be displayed at the state capitol in March.

Assistant superintendent for maintenance and transportation Hal Crisco informed the board the district received $14,000 in rebates from Entergy over the past year for participating in the CLEAResult energy efficiency program.

Maintenance employees Jean Stark and Ron Harvey are licensed in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. They attended training sessions and worked on the units.

By doing extensive cleaning of 80 out of 400 HVAC units in the schools, they were able get rebate money for the district.

Beebe was also recognized as the top-performing school and received the service excellence award.