VILONIA — Dr. Frank Mitchell, superintendent of the Vilonia School District, told the Board of Education Monday night, he has received word that a grant in the amount of $750,000 has been awarded by FEMA allowing work to begin soon on a safe room at the Vilonia Primary School.
That will leave the district, Mitchell said, with paying 25 percent of the cost or about $250,000.
"That is a very good deal for us," he added. "We should be able to get started on it pretty quickly."
The safe room will be about 4,300 square ft. and serve as shelter for about 700.
In other business, the board approved bids for upgrading fire alarms with Royal Communication at a charge of $126,000 with a 90-day completion.
A reorganization of the board was approved with no changes made. Jerry Roberts remained as president; Randy Sanders vice-president and Mark McKissack, secretary.
Other action, the Arkansas Comprehensive School Improvement Plan was adopted. Also adopted was the Minority Recruitment Plan. On that issue, it was said that a committee has been meeting and there have been strategies implemented for recruitment including setting up an online application system and contacting college placement centers.
The board also approved renewing business trip insurance premiums through the Arkansas School Board Association.
Prior to the board meeting, a public meeting was held where assistant superintendent Gary Lambert announced that "no schools are on the school improvement status."
Standards, he said, were met district wide during the 2011-12 school year with no deficiencies in any area. He credited teacher dedication and "those who support them," for the ranking. "Our test scores are solid," he said. "They are good but it doesn’t mean we can’t improve them. Because we are good, we want to get better."
In addition to focusing on literacy as a district goal, he said, where there has been a drop, the educators will focus more intently on improving learning for special education students.
Goals for individual campuses were defined by the five principals as well as district goals were outlined by administrators. Many times it was said the district has no deficiencies as far as accreditation. In every instance, principals shared programs that were implemented during the 2011-12 school year. Each also detailed new programs, they said, that are being implemented as a part of the 2012-13 school year with emphasis on improving communications between teachers and parents, additional teacher training, accessing more technology equipment and also implementing additional learning programs where students are being taught to use technology more effectively. A common thread shared by all is to also implement Common Core State Standards as well as to gather and evaluate data regarding improvement plans. There was also a lean to focus more on individual student learning.
At the high school, Principal Andy Ashley said student achievement is priority with emphasis placed on increasing the ACT scores, maintaining or increasing literacy and math scores where students are proficient or advanced. Currently, he said, ACT scores are one-point higher than the state average. He also stressed the importance adding additional technology.
"The high school has one mobile computer lab and one computer lab in the library for all students and teachers to use," Ashley said. "We want to implement the previously approved literacy curriculum which includes the purchase of three additional mobile computer labs and have network access to them."
Laying out goals at the junior high, Principal Rick Kelley said they are working to improve communication among departments as well as more parent involvement and to align curriculum in grades 7-12. A bulk email communication system, he said, is being developed at the school. The school has three mobile technology labs as well as two stable labs that will be utilized to the maximum accessing online learning materials and textbooks.
Principal Cathy Riggins said individual student achievement is a focus at both the Middle School and the Academy of Technology also housed at the school. Also, she talked about working as a "collaborative team to strengthen our learning community" with a focus on student and adult learning.
Elementary School principal Mark Crowder said at the school the goals this year include improving all performance levels in literacy and math but "especially our students with disabilities."
Primary School principal Susan Loyd said the goals at the primary include providing more direct instruction to each student regarding writing with a stronger emphasis on content and style. Teachers, she said, will focus on literacy intervening with students early on. She also addressed goals for the Academy of Technology housed at the school where they are integrating various technologies into the day to day instruction.
District wide, Mitchell spoke briefly about the passing of the one-cent millage increase in September which will allow an Intermediate School to be built.
"It will probably be another school year away before we can utilize it," he said.
He also talked about upgrading in some of the schools and making them "stronger." Grants are being pursued, he said, that if received will allow entrepreneurship programs and engineering programs to be implemented.
Mitchell also addressed policies saying there were only brief changes. The dress code policy has been getting some attention on Facebook, according to Mitchell. An attempt to squelch a rumor, he said, the dress code has nothing to do with the color of jeans a student can wear to school. The school’s policy, he said, is not overbearing.
"The dress code of the school is set up for not disrupting the school environment," Mitchell said. "We let our kids wear jeans with holes depending on where the holes are located. If anything, I would say I’ve been over lenient."