Working with the Arch Ford Cooperative Consortium, the Vilonia School District will soon become a JAG (Jobs for American Graduates) "hub" providing alternative learning opportunities for students on its campus.

The Vilonia Board of Education, Monday night, approved renewing an ALE (Alternative Learning Environment) contract with Arch Ford for $120,000 which will include 30 slots in the program. In addition, a JAG (Jobs for American Graduates) hub will be opened on the Vilonia campus, being instructed by a certified teacher. The Vilonia hub will allow students to attend the blended learning classes in Vilonia or Conway. The hub on the Vilonia campus, according to assistant superintendent Cathy Riggins, will also allow the district to serve more students providing more flexible hours. The JAG program allows students to work and also attend classes.

"Ultimately, we hope to graduate more students with the hub," Riggins said. Also, the district plans to reach out to businesses searching for apprenticeship programs and job opportunities for students.

In other business, the board approved:

--Purchase of 21 pallets of paper from Contract Paper Group at a cost of $18,891.60.

--Lamp and ballast repair at the baseball and softball fields at a cost of $10,346 by Fureigh Electric.

--A three-year contract with Simplex Grinnell for monitoring and servicing the district’s fire alarm systems at a cost of $11,882.

--Approved a bid from H&H Asphalt Paving Company for repairs to the bus parking lot costing $12,900.

--Approved the resignations of Matthew Sullivan, teacher; Geneva Day, teacher; Christy Russell, dyslexia interventionist; Lauren Lefler, Spanish teacher; Sara Bailey, English teacher and Brittany Chambers, teacher.

--Approved the employment of Linda Ferguson as half-time cafeteria worker and Karrie Kirk, ABC aid/daycare aide.

--Approved the certified contract renewal of 226 employees.

Reports:

Mike Armstrong of Nabholz Construction Company, the foundation for the safe room being built at Frank Mitchell Intermediate School should be down in the next month with a completion date in August.

During the superintendent’s spotlight, various teachers and students addressed the board including:

--Teacher Kathy Moore and Vilonia Elementary third graders were among those presenting. Every student wrote their story, illustrated with artwork, and their individual book "I Survived," was published. Parents had the option to purchase books.

--Vilonia Middle School engineering elective class teacher Chandra Otts stood by allowing eighth graders to make a presentation regarding their participation in Engineering Olympics where they competed against 19 other schools and placing third overall.

On a toothpick bridge challenge, students placed third.

They also competed using pipe cleaners and placed third. The students shared how they used glue and toothpicks constructing the bridge. The pipe cleaner competition was "free standing" with a three-minute time limit.

Some of the students also told about acing a critical thinking portion of the Olympics answering critical thinking questions.

The presentation ended with a couple of students demonstrating the skills of a couple of robots they have built.

Otts was also recognized for taking on the new class which began this year "developing her curriculum as she has gone," Riggins said.

--Vilonia Middle School teachers introduced the new ICU program at VMS, launched February 1, that is designed to reduce student apathy and "sick grades."

A student taking a zero grade at VMS is not an option any longer, said teacher Kim Simmons. The teachers said the ICU program is a motivational tool and not a disciplinary measure.

The program, they said, is not designed to shame a student into performance but to encourage them. A lunch is delivered to the student while in ICU, held during lunch periods, where that student has the opportunity to "do a quality assignment" rather than opt for less.

Explaining the way it works, the teachers said, the names of students on the ICU list go into a data base with a notification immediately going to their parents as well as teachers.

A couple of people at the school referred to as "lifeguards" are also in place to help the ICU students with roadblocks.

The program, the teachers said, has increased communication with parents. From March 1, until the presentation, the teachers said 1,038 assignments had been completed that would have otherwise meant "zeros," for students.

Principal Lori Lombardi said the program is doing exactly what it was designed to do and she complimented the teachers who worked to implement it.

In researching the program and the workings, teachers said they visited Rogers School District in northwest Arkansas, where they met with some school officials who have been implementing it for a while.

They were told, they said, to expect it to be hard to launch but that it is worth the work.

The VMS teachers worked for several months developing the Vilonia process and presenting to other teachers for a "buy in," before the official launch, they said.

Following the presentation, board members asked a few questions and expressed their buy in.

"I love this program," Dr. David Stephens, district superintendent, told the teachers.

The students, he said, currently don’t understand the long term effects of taking zeros. The ICU program, he said, also gives validity to grades and will measure a student’s ability to master content.

Riggins said district officials are now looking at expanding the ICU program school wide. The plan, she said, is for it to be implemented at the Freshman Academy during the upcoming school year.

It is also being looked at, she said, on the high school level.

"As the kids progress, they are going to know we don’t accept zeros in our district," Riggins said.

--Sophia Hogan, director of food services for the school district, presented an overview of the new food service website and highlighted some of the program’s features including resources for parents such as EZ PAY.

Hogan has been selected to serve as a mentor to other food service directors in the state.

She will attend a Team Up for School Nutrition Success in Arkansas meeting in April.