Berryville School Board votes to help finance street improvement

Friday, August 22, 2008

BERRYVILLE -- The Berryville Board of Education voted to contribute $50,000 to the West Freeman Avenue improvement project that is expected to cost the City of Berryville around $200,000.

The project is currently underway at the school's West Campus where the city has extended the roadway further into the campus and is currently widening Freeman to accommodate a left-hand turn lane, which will help with traffic flow at the Freeman/U.S. Hwy. 62 intersection.

The project has involved condemnation of church property along the route, and will require new signalization at the intersection.

When the board met Monday night, member Sam Eaves brought the matter to the table, saying Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney requested the $50,000 contribution, saying the city would get the job done regardless. Eaves said in many instances, schools are responsible for their own roadway improvements.

Board member Jack Edens suggested a cost share, and noted that the new shopping center along Freeman would also benefit.

Asked if the payment could come out of the district's facility fund, Superintendent Dr. Randy Byrd said it could, "and I think we can do it," he added, referring to available funds. After further discussion, the board okayed the $50,000 contribution to the city.

According to McKinney, street widening and extension is costing $80,000 to $100,000, new signalization at the intersection will add another $70,000 or so, and the city will have to pay the church for the land it condemned, an amount yet to be determined by the court.

In other board business, resignations were accepted from several staffers, including sixth grade science teacher Barry Hardin, who accepted an assistant principal's position at Green Forest Schools, and from fifth grade teacher Joni Beckwith, who had been on maternity leave.

Third grade teacher Lisa Youngblood was moved to a fifth grade teaching position to fill the vacancy, and Sarah Logan was officially hired by the board Monday night to teach third grade after spending the day in a classroom with students -- without a contract.

Attendance on the first day of school Monday was at 1,787, up three students from May figures. Grades three-through-five saw the biggest gain, up 36 students, from 422 in May, to 458 in August.

Dr. Byrd said the numbers changed as the day went on and he expected enrollment to increase as families returned from summer vacations.

A facilities report was presented by Dr. Doug Harris, who said a concession stand/restroom bid opening was scheduled for 4 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 26. He said eight or more bidders were interested, some unknown to the architect, so a window of review time was needed before the architect could make a recommendation.

Hoping to get the project completed as soon as possible, the board scheduled a special meeting for 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 27, to consider the recommendation and possibly award a contract for construction.

Asked about other building projects, Harris said the multipurpose building should be completed in 25 days, and there was an Oct. 1 finish date for the Fine Arts building.

The West Campus Intermediate School is occupied, Harris said, and the contractor was working with the school to correct some problems with door locks and programmable thermostats at that building.

The West Campus physical education building still lacked floor paint and locks, and carpet on walls needed attention to attach it securely, he said.

He passed out, for the board's review, a "wish list" of furniture and fixtures for the Fine Arts building that was submitted by band and choir directors. He said the board should look it over before a request for bids is compiled.

During the "Superintendent's Update" portion of the meeting, Dr. Byrd referred to recent newspaper stories regarding the state legislative auditing committee finding fault with Green Forest Schools for its purchase of trophies, plaques and T-shirts from a firm owned by one of its teachers and her husband.

Any purchase more than $5,000 a year that might involve a conflict of interest must be approved by the school board and the state Department of Education.

"Let's make sure we're legal," said Byrd, who proceeded to seek the board's adoption of a resolution recognizing certain school employees, board members, and family members of school employees who do business with the district, as required by ACT 1599. Byrd said more names can be added when they come to light.

A school bus inspection report was distributed, with Byrd saying he was "very proud" of the results knowing that state inspectors go over the buses with a "fine tooth comb" looking for any deficiencies. "We have extremely safe buses," he reported.

Byrd also noted that he was "very pleased" with the ACT test scores, saying "We are above the state average in every category."

When addressing the high school's first year of academic distress status pertaining to literacy, he said the district would be working diligently to remove itself from the classification, and introduced Trish Conner, who briefly explained how a new TLI (The Learning Institute) program works to identify individual student weaknesses through interim assessments.

The data base pulls up "below basic" students immediately and academic coaches can take aside those needing remediation and work with them individually. "Teachers will know their strengths and weaknesses," she said. "It a good diagnostic tool for teachers and administrators."

Also during the meeting, the board okayed Byrd's request that they establish four more custodial positions to handle the new buildings on campus. He said the state makes recommendations based on square footage, but regardless, he said "we need custodians to clean the new buildings." The majority would work at night, he added.

The board extended the PBS lease for another five years at $8,963 plus tax monthly, for copiers and toner, following Byrd's recommendation.

He said they needed to reconfigure the lease, work smarter, reduce the number of individual printers and secure faster service, but recommended extension of the lease, especially since the company was responsible for toner, which cost $85,000 last year alone.

Also approved was: the current salary schedule; a continuing agreement with the Boston Mountain Coop; and, the rehiring of District Treasurer Cathy Bunch under a retire/rehire provision.

Hired were Judy Lisle as cafeteria worker and Carl Owens as bus driver.

A resignation was accepted from bus driver Patti Owens, and the board approved moving: custodian Teresa Clark to second shift at her request; John McClellan from eighth grade English/language to sixth grade science; and Cindy Williams from literacy coach to eighth grade English/language.

Donald Randolph was added to the substitute list as a bus driver.

Fundraisers approved during the meeting included the sale of choir booster memberships and singing Valentines for the choir, and cookie dough and popcorn sales to help pay for a fifth grade class trip to the Ozark Natural Science Center.

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