GF School Board postpones action on requests for student transfers
GREEN FOREST -- The school board postponed a decision on whether or not to grant waivers to allow students transferring to compete immediately in athletics.
At a meeting Monday night, the board heard from two parents whose children will attend school this fall in Berryville under the state's school choice program.
Both parents want their children to be eligible for athletics, and that would require the signature of Superintendent Jeff Williams on a Changing School Athletic Participation (CSAP) form.
The CSAP states that a superintendent does not believe a student has been recruited, nor is he changing schools for athletic reasons. Students entering grades nine and lower can participate immediately in athletics if the form is signed. Students changing schools under the school choice program must sit out a year if they are entering grade 10 or higher. These provisions do not apply in case of a bona fide relocation by the family.
Williams did not sign the CSAP as requested by the families of the transferring students. When board members asked why he would not sign, he said the parents' appearance before the board suggested there might be more to the transfers than academic reasons.
"Tonight is just about athletics," he said. "They can already do anything else they want there."
Both the parents who spoke said they were transferring their children for academic reasons, but they both were adamant about the importance of immediate athletic eligibility.
The board members wrestled with this difficult issue for 45 minutes, before deciding to do more research and make a final decision at the Aug. 17 board meeting. Unless the CSAP is signed before games start for the year, the students will have to sit out a year, although they can still practice.
Williams said the school does not have a policy for this situation, and he asked if the board wanted to establish a policy or decide on a case by case basis.
Board members Susan Newberry and Peggy James said the decision should rest with the superintendent. Newberry also warned against a "dangerous precedent" for students who want to play in the new gym Berryville built.
"If you're after academics, let academics be the thing," she said. "They're 14 years old--let them keep practicing."
Board member Bud Phillips admitted to "losing a lot of sleep over this." He said he would like to grant the requests, but he had concerns about setting a precedent.
Some 15 Green Forest students took advantage of the school choice program this year, but many of those were for kindergartners who have never attended Green Forest schools.
With two older buildings moved, construction on the new middle school project can proceed as soon as weather permits.
Williams said workers have begun removing sidewalk slabs which carry the names of alumni.
The board had previously decided not to hold a formal ribbon-cutting, but a ceremony is planned now for 10 a.m. on Monday, July 27. Special invited guests will include Bob Evans, who served as interim superintendent when voters approved the millage increase which allowed the project to go forward.
No lunch on credit
"You'll get some calls on this," Williams said, as the board approved a policy recommended by the Arkansas School Boards Association which eliminates charging lunch for students or staff.
Because of new laws pertaining to creditors and identity theft, the school would have to take a complicated series of steps to enter into a credit relationship.
Requiring payment at the time of purchase or in advance will also solve a collection problem for the school. Students who cannot pay for lunch are typically given a peanut butter sandwich and milk.
* All students who are eligible for reduced-price lunches will now receive free lunch. Williams said the change will not cost the school a lot, and will help families in a hard time.
* At the June 15 board meeting, a $100,000 bid for security cameras was tentatively approved. The bid was considerably lower than other bids, but relied on different technology than other bidders.
After checking the specifications, Williams asked the board to reject all the bids and re-bid the project with new specifications.
* The board approved several fundraising efforts for fundraisers for the student council, but rejected a proposal by the band to take donations in front of Walmart. Several board members opposed that plan because they felt students should work for what they want, not ask for handouts.
* A parent whose child was in summer school said her child received a 69, which is a failing grade for summer school, although it would be a passing grade during the regular school year. She explained some other extenuating circumstances, and asked that her child receive credit for passing the course. The board upheld the teacher's decision.
* Foundation repairs at the high school have been completed, and work should be done within a week on replacing 16 air-handling units.