Wednesday, December 09, 2015

TOP STORY >> District readies to push millage

Leader senior staff writer

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Jacksonville-North Pulaski high school should be ready later this month or in early January for the school board and for use in the campaign to pass a 7.6-mill property tax increase in a Feb. 9 special election, according to Eldon Bock, principal architect for WER Architects.

The money would be used to build the new high school, to contribute toward a new elementary school and to build multi-purpose rooms for the other elementary schools —all improvements now officially sanctioned by the state Education Department and state Partnership Program.

At a board workshop last week, members told Bock they preferred a traditional/contemporary design in the vein of the Esther D. Nixon Library, just down Main Street from the old middle school property upon which the high school will be built.

Based on projected enrollment and conforming to state guidelines, the new school will be about 230,000 square feet and cost roughly $200 a square foot, he said Tuesday. Using those figures, the school could cost about $46 million, including site preparation.

He said the artist’s rendering would probably be a front-door vignette, off Main Street, and would include a rough early site plan.

Bock said he had received a topographical map from Bond Engineers with which planning could continue, but that most planning was on hold until after the election, so the district would know how much money it can spend on the new school.

Including site work, phase one of construction will be for 1,700 students, with some areas such as the kitchen and mechanicals built to later accommodate additions of more classrooms for more students.

He said his shop would get real busy after the millage increase election, regardless of whether it passes or fails.

While high school construction and architecture were discussed at great length at the workshop on Dec. 1, it wasn’t on the agenda for the regular board meeting held Monday night.

Robin Wakefield, representing the Jacksonville NAACP, asked why she and Gwendolyn Harper hadn’t received answers to items they had asked for under the Freedom of

Information Act about licensed personnel hiring practices. Board President Daniel Gray said he thought that had been taken care of and offered to visit with Wakefield and go over her issues and concerns.

Myeisha Haywood, principal of Murrell Taylor Elementary School, gave a video presentation with her leadership of tools they use to help students improve academically in math and literacy, including classes or exercises before and after school.

Jeremy Owoh, assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum is now Dr. Jeremy Owoh, Rick Kron noted during his comments about the district’s salary schedule, which is competitive for less experienced teachers, but not for those with advanced degrees and many years of experience. Kron asked to discuss the salary issue at the next meeting.

Kron is a teacher and, by way of full disclosure, also a reporter for The Leader.

In the consent agenda, a first reading was held to adopt JNP School Board Policies on Governance and Operations and also on Administration. The proposed policies, based on state requirements and the Arkansas School Board Association, were discussed previously. Three readings are required for the measure to be passed.

Superintendent Tony Wood praised the board for taking their duties seriously and reviewing the policies as their homework.

One proposed change would prohibit bus drivers from performing “safety-sensitive functions within eight hours after using alcohol.” The previous language was four hours.

The board also considered licensed personnel policies and classified personnel policies, with proposed changes by consultant Beverly Williams.

The school calendar has not been set yet, according to Wood. He said he’s trying to coordinate with the Pulaski County Special School District, Little Rock and North Little Rock schools. Someone suggested trying to include Cabot in the discussion.

The board approved a social media policy that insists, whether in-person or over electronic media, any interactions with a student must be professional and appropriate, even discouraging “likes” and comments on Facebook or elsewhere because they could be widely disseminated.

Employees can’t use social media accounts in class and are discouraged from using even their own devices during work hours, except during breaks or preparation periods.

An employee doesn’t have to give administrators access to their accounts and passwords or to include them as a friend on those accounts, unless the employee’s social media account activity “is reasonably believed to be relevant to the investigation of an allegation of an employee violating district policy or state, federal or local laws or regulations.”

Refusal under those circumstances may precipitate disciplinary action that could include termination or non-renewal of the employee’s contract.