School board sets new officers, honors Teachers of the Year

The Bryant School District's Teachers of the Year. (Photo by Lana Clifton)By LANA CLIFTON

The Bryant School Board met for its regular monthly meeting on Monday, Sept. 21 in the Professional Development Center on the Bryant High School campus.

Because it was the first regular meeting following the annual school election, the first course of business was for the board to choose its officers. Rhonda Sanders was nominated as President, Sandra Porter as Vice-President and David Moore as Secretary. David Moore was nominated as the disbursement officer with Porter acting as alternate disbursement officer. All positions were voted in unanimously.

Among the agenda items addressed at the meeting were announcements and recognition of the district’s teachers of the year, a proposal recommending the sale of construction bonds and the presentation of the proposed budget.[more]

Each school in the district selected a teacher of the year from its staff. Teachers of the year were: Tara Seale, Bryant High School; Adrian Shively, Bethel Middle School; Amy Blakely, R.L Davis Elementary; Charisa Eakin, Collegeville Elementary; Nancy Papacek, Hurricane Creek Elementary; Leigh Hooton , Springhill Elementary; Liz Cunningham, Paron Elementary; Vickie Hiblong, Bryant Elementary and Jill Gather, Salem Elementary.

Each teacher chosen by his or her school applied for District Teacher of the Year. A district committee reviewed the applications and selected Patricia Harris from Bryant Middle School for the honor. Harris teaches English and has been a teacher at BMS for 13 years.

Sue Reeves, BMS Principal was quoted as describing Harris as “the epitome of the perfect classroom teacher.”

Harris will now become the Bryant Public Schools candidate for Arkansas State Teacher of the Year.

All teachers of the year were present to accept their awards except Shively.

In other business, Brooks Jackson, the architect working on the high school building project, presented a facility report to the board to bring them up to date on the progress of the plan to build the new building.

Part of his report included a description of an overview of possible whole campus renovations. He had researched and put together this part of the presentation to satisfy a request by the board to give them an idea of some things that could occur on campus in the future.

Jackson went on to announce the schematic design of the high school building had been submitted to the Arkansas Department of Education and survey work and field work on the project were complete.

Jackson also explained some of the different power technologies he and his associates were researching for use in the building. He said, at this time, they would not be able to make the building fully solar, but they were looking into ways to integrate the different technologies as teaching tools. He said they were still seeking LEED certification and that meetings to pursue that goal were continuing.

Following Jackson’s report, A.V. Beardsley III, president of First Security Beardsley Public Finance, addressed the board to propose a plan to refund a Nov. 1, 2003 Series “A” Bond Issue.

“It’s not often that I come before the board and say, we can give you some money without you having to go to voters, without you having to borrow any more money, etc. This is one time I can come before you with an option that is not costing you money. This is a refunding.”

Beardsley explained the process, legality and proposed benefits of such a move and provided schedules and spreadsheets to support his position.

Porter made a motion to submit an “’Application for a Permit to Issue Bonds,’ with related documents, for a $12,655,000 Refunding Bond Issue to the Commissioner of Education and to confirm employment of First Security Beardsley Public Finance as Fiscal Agent.” The motion was passed unanimously.

Beardsley also presented the board with a suggestion to sell the first series of bonds passed by the recent millage. This sale would free up money allowing construction to begin in the spring of 2010.

Dr. Richard Abernathy, superintendent, agreed with Beardsley and added this would allow the construction project to move forward according to the timeline agreed to in March.

Moore made a motion to allow First Security Beardsley Public Finance to sell the first series bonds to avoid disruption in the construction. The board passed the motion unanimously.

Another item on the agenda involved a guest speaker from the Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science (AAIMS), Tommy Sue Anthony, president of the organization. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debbie Bruick introduced Anthony as someone known throughout the state as “a leader in advanced placement (AP).”

Anthony said America was falling behind in math and science. She warned if things did not improve in this area, America would turn into a third-world country. Anthony said, to help stop this from happening, the National Math and Science Initiative had set up grants for qualifying states to promote programs that encourage students to excel in math and science.

A national competition was held, and Arkansas was eventually chosen as one of six states to receive a grant of up to $13.2 million. According to Anthony, AAIMS was developed as a non-profit organization to handle the grant money.

Anthony shared the goals of AAIMS. These goals include increases in number of students enrolled in AP classes, number of AP test scores of 3-5 in math, science, and English, number of students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and the number of students graduating in college.

To accomplish these goals, Anthony said schools qualified to participate in the program must agree to receive extensive professional development, set up lead teachers and administer the PSAT to all 10th grade students. As part of the program, they would receive matching funds, student incentives and teacher incentives. These schools must also increase AP enrollment, AP courses, and must make AP a priority.

Anthony said she knew Bryant was interested in the program, but one thing would hold them back – 4×4 block scheduling.

“Because we want each school to dramatically increase number of students enrolled (in AP), add courses, increase sections. That’s not doable on a 4×4 block schedule. The only way you can increase would be if AP is not on a 4×4 block,” explained Anthony.

She also described the Bryant School District as being a good candidate for AAIM.

“Bryant is exactly the kind of school we’d like to have. You have a lot of room for growth,” said Anthony.

The school board members discussed different options to accommodate a different schedule for AP classes and decided to meet for a workshop on the subject in the near future to try to make a decision about how to solve the scheduling issue. The meeting was to be called soon to beat the Oct. 9 deadline to apply for the AAIM program.

In other business, the board approved day-treatment tuition and service provider agreements for the special education department, reviewed district policies and approved the 2009-2010 budget.

The board also voted to allow a pay increase to salaries within the district, announced a donation to Salem Elementary of four desktop computers from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and recognized and congratulated Scott Hart as a new member of the board.

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