VILONIA — Monday night, the Vilonia Board of Education approved the district’s participation in an alternative school that will be offered to students, grades 9-12, who may have trouble working in a traditional classroom, those in danger of dropping out and those who are "job focused."
Presenting the program, Jason Burkman of Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative, said the school will be more about intervention and not punitive. He will serve as the director. Thirty students, county-wide, 10 from three school districts, will be accepted to attend the school that will be housed in Conway. The Conway School District, he said, has approved participation already.
"Conway was chosen because of the businesses," Burkman explained. Currently, he said, the school doesn’t have a name. That, he said, will be forthcoming.
A facet of the school will be a school-to-work (JAG) program where students will work a portion of the day giving them a chance to "see how the business world works." Also, after graduation, the program will serve as a support system for attendees for up to a year.
The school will offer core subjects, Burkman said, taught by "top-notch" instructors in an alternative learning environment. The students, in classroom settings of 12 or so, will have access to the latest technology, he added. While the program will be operated in Conway, the students will still be identified as Vilonia students and may participate in other district events. The Vilonia School District will be required to run a bus daily, transporting students to and from the facility in Conway.
It is anticipated the school will be operational in time for the beginning of the next school year.
Board members discussed the pros and cons. There was discussion regarding how students would be chosen and speculation on where there will be enough interest in attending. Matt Sewell, director of special education for Vilonia, voiced his support of the program.
"We have kids here that are not college bound," he said. "We need this type of setting and I’m glad to see a program like this coming to our county. I see no problem filling the 10 slots. The way I see it — every advantage they can get is a plus."
Board member Tim Nolan said one of his objectives, in running for his position, was to be a champion for students who might not be college material.
"I wanted to see if we couldn’t salvage kids that might drop out," he said. He talked about the possibility of offering students apprentice programs such as in welding and plumbing.
It was said the first year of the program will result in the Vilonia District being in the red about $16,000 after the state matching funds.
In other business, the board approved three resolutions and contracts relating to ethics including: Dr. Frank Mitchell, superintendent, said he will be sending them to the state Department of Education for approval. Those mentioned are Lasting Impression owned by Amanda and Brad Matthews, the low bidder on diamond polished flooring on the Intermediate School project. The bids were solicited and approved by Nabholz, Mitchell said. However, the Department of Education said the agency’s approval was needed since Mrs. Matthews is an employee of the school.
Similar circumstances, Southern Tees, owned by Lisa and Sean Barber, provide T-shirts, sweatshirts and printing and graphics also provides services to the district and Mrs. Barber is an employee. A limit of $10,000 was proposed per fiscal year, regarding this business, and purchases of $1,000 or more would be approved by the board.
Another matter, Sew What, owned by Lisa Evans provides services to the district. She is a part-time employee.
Letters will be sent to all school employees regarding doing business with the district, Mitchell also said.
In other business, the board:
• Approved air conditioning the high school gymnasium at an estimated cost of about $300,000. They plan to begin advertising for bids and hope to complete the work during the summer.
• Approved the 2013-14 school calendar. The Thanksgiving break is set for Nov. 25-29; Christmas break Dec. 23-Jan. 3; Spring break March 24-28; and the last day of school May 28 or June 5 (depending on the number of make-up days due to weather).
Resignations accepted included:
• Steve Hensley, transportation director; Maureen Baker, teacher center coordinator; Susie Platt, payroll secretary; Joyce Huff, custodian; Alice Gray, elementary; Jason Smith, high school cafeteria; Jean Hartwick, bus driver; Brandy Schrab.
• Positions to be filled include: assistant superintendent, elementary principal, junior high media specialist, elementary teacher, transportation director, payroll secretary and teacher center coordinator.