School Board honors Merit Scholars, hears updates on construction, technology

By Jamie M. Dobbs

At the Bryant School Board meeting that took place Monday, Sept. 20, started off with the recognitions of two National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists, Bradley Aldridge and Marrissa Thornberry, and the Bessie B. Moore Award winner for Economics Tammy Lambert.

Aldridge, a senior, is currently ranked No.1 in his class with a 4.2 GPA and he plans to attend the University of Alabama in the fall and later enroll in law school.

Thornberry, also a senior, plans to attend Ouachita Baptist University and major in psychology.[more]

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the Program is an academic competition that students can enter based off of their preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. There are approximately 1.5 million entrants but only 16,000 of the highest scoring students in each state are named semi-finalist.

Brittany Jones, Student Senate President, addressed the board and those present with the senate report. According to Jones, the Student Senate has been hard at work since school began preparing for BHS Homecoming. Spirit week has already been planned by the senate along with advertising for Homecoming being done around the city.

The Facility Report was then given by architect Brooks Jackson to inform the board of the construction progress that has been made around the various campuses. Over the summer, Pine Street was extended, parking lots were completed, buildings 3 and 15 were completed and punched, and the Robert L. Davis floor was finished and punched. Jackson went on to explain that there are projects that are still taking place around the schools as the year progresses. Observations are being made weekly, all construction work is moving along at a steady pace, he said. Building 11 has been removed, cutting is in process and the service road from north to the kitchen area has been cut to grade. Jackson indicated he is pleased with the progress that is taking place and looks to have all of the projects that are currently underway, finished on deadline.

After a look at the construction progress, the board was presented with information from Dr. Debbie Bruick and Lynn Harrison, Bryant School District Gifted Program Administrator, concerning the Advanced Placement classes and the Concurrent Credit classes that are offered at Bryant High School. As of now, 16 Advanced Placement and Concurrent Credit classes are available for the students to enroll in. Interest from students and class numbers determine whether or not a class will be offered any particular semester.

Bryant High School currently partners with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) to offer the Concurrent Credit classes to those students who qualify with their overall GPA and test scores. If the students qualify, they are allowed to take the courses and receive the college credit free of charge.

Bruick went on to address the board with some follow-up information from last month’s meeting concerning the free and reduced lunch students. Supplemental Service Providers (SES) are now having to be offered to the free and reduced lunch students at the schools that fall into the Title I category of School Improvement. A list of outside providers is being given to the parents of these students and they are then allowed to choose a provider to aid their child in tutoring. Each Title I student will have a predetermined amount of money that is dedicated to SES and a model contract will be completed by all incoming SES providers.

After a brief break that was taken by the board to sign bond papers, the meeting resumed with Vickie Kingston, Special Education Supervisor, requesting a pay increase for the licensed therapists that serve the district. The therapists are currently receiving $40 per hour, which has been the pay rate for the past 11 years, she said. Kingston requested an increase to $45 per hour because the district was not able to compete with other employers due to the current pay rate. More money would not be given to Kingston’s budget because she is planning on consolidating some classes and prioritizing student needs so that the raise will be absorbed into the existing budget. The board approved the increase.

Kingston went on to recommend a list of providers such as Central Arkansas Pediatric Services and KidSource, Inc. for approval for continued use of their services. The board approved this as well.

After the educational points of interest were covered, assistant superintendent Don McGohan addressed the board with a Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Plan. The plan included an agreement between the Bryant and Benton Districts that stated in case of a disaster that destroyed the administrative building at Bryant, changes would be made so that Benton would house the administrative side of the schools while a building was unavailable. A flip chart of disasters and instructions was also given to the board to view. The flip chart is at every Bryant school and classroom. The board was asked to approve the plan and it was approved.

When it came to technology, Mark McDougal, coordinator, gave the board an update on projects that have been taking place around the different campuses. He said that the portable internet solution for the south high school wing is not working due to the lack of penetration by the waves into the metal buildings. Also, the district network has recently contracted a “worm” that is in the process of being eradicated. McDougal thinks that worm could have gotten into the system through a computer being taken home and then being hooked back into the school network.

McDougal also addressed the fiber ring implementations that he suggested at the August school board meeting. The reason for going with a fiber ring, which is an underground solution to keep internet and network connectivity, is so that there is constant connection on all of the campuses. At the August meeting, the board agreed to send out the fiber ring job for bids. The bids have come back in and board members expressed pleasure with the low cost of the project. Originally, the project was going to be purchased in phases, but as a result of the low costs, the board agreed to purchase the entire job at the cost of $282,245 from an unnamed contractor that is said to have done numerous jobs for the Bryant School District.

Other areas covered in the meeting include a proposed annual budget that the board is waiting on to still be finalized, a donation report that was presented by Richard Stipe, and a personnel review for resignations and new hires.

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