BERRYVILLE -- Wrestling is coming to Berryville Schools as a AAA-sanctioned sport for both boys and girls.
The Berryville Board of Education voted 7-0 to add the sport after hearing a presentation from Seth Record, with the Berryville Mat Cats Wrestling Club.
The new program will be implemented next fall, with the season running late November through mid-February.
"Now is the time to seize the moment," Record told the school board during its Monday night meeting.
He said Greg Hatcher, a Little Rock philanthropist, had offered $10,000 to purchase a wrestling mat for the Berryville program, and another $3,000 help with other start up expenses.
He said it was a limited time offer because Hatcher, who helped other schools in the past, now plans to require a 50 percent match.
"We are the last school offered the full ride," Record said. "Otherwise, it's 50/50.
"The mat is the biggest expense," he continued. "You spread it out on a basketball floor. That's pretty much it. We have the money, the interest and facilities."
When speaking about the interest, Record said he had spoken "with dozens in the community and everyone thinks it would do us good."
He said wrestling has a big future in Berryville, and it is one of the fastest growing sports in the nation.
Asked about female participation, he said it is open to both boys and girls. He said two females competed at the state competition recently and one finished second, although it is predominately a boys sport.
Wrestling, he added, is one sport where a big school doesn't have the advantage.
The wrestler, he said, is the one athlete who must meet his opponent and do battle completely on his own. There is no one to blame for his mistakes.
"It's 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental," Record continued. "You have to be smart. It's one of the greatest off-season sports. It will help with our football program."
He said 53 high schools in Arkansas now have wrestling. The average GPA of wrestlers is 3.0, he said, and 67 percent of National Football League (NFL) linemen wrestled in high school or college. Houston Nutt, he added, prefers football players who have a wrestling background because they score higher academically and have a definite physical advantage over non-wrestlers.
Shannon Hill, president of the school board, said she had heard from a number of people in the community who showed a "great" interest in the sport. She said details of the program have to be worked out, but the board overwhelmingly approved Record's wrestling request.
On the topic of sports, Superintendent Dr. Randy Byrd reported on the ongoing effort to require private schools, such as Shiloh Christian, to play in a conference with other private schools -- instead of public schools, which have a perceived recruiting disadvantage.
Bryd lead the charge last year when the school board voted not to play Shiloh at the high school level. He also voiced his concerns at a AAA meeting and was offered the opportunity to serve on a committee, which he described Monday night as the "public/private get-along committee."
"It looks like the AAA board is going to act on a proposal to allow private to play up," he said. "That means Shiloh will be out of our conference.
"It's looking good," he continued. "It doesn't mean we won't play Shiloh next year. It won't come before the (AAA) board until August, but I do think it will go through with flying colors.
"I don't think it would have happened," he added, "if we hadn't done what we did last year."
Last day of school
Sheri Bickel, representing the Personnel Policy Committee, said staff overwhelmingly chose to add one day to the end of the school year for a "make-up snow-day" instead of using a spring break day. She said the vote was 142 to 50 in favor of the extension, making the last day of school for students Tuesday, June 1.
The PPC also voted on two calendars for the school year ahead. She said the vote was tied because both calendars were similar.
Bryd suggested, and the board approved, Option 2 with its six snow days, counting Good Friday. The first day of classes will be Aug. 19 and the last day May 27, 2011.
Bus driver benefits
Owen Powell, transportation director, suggested the board offer district bus drivers health insurance, saying the district is losing drivers to retirement, they are tough to replace, and potential drivers usually ask if benefits are included.
"That is the one big question," he said. "Do we offer health insurance?"
He said the district has 21 regular route drivers and most are district employees who already qualify for insurance benefits. The request would cover the half-dozen or so other contract drivers.
The board approved the request to provide the same plan options other district employees are offered; the district pays $170 a month and the employee pays an amount based on the coverage chosen, ranging anywhere from $35 a month to $700-plus a month.
The board voted to renew all certified and classified contacts except two.
Contracts for Athletics Director Doug Scheel and High School Special Ed instructor Christy Skelton were tabled. Asked the reason for tabling, Byrd said he had "no comment" because it was a personnel matter.
Delta Garden Study
The board gave Middle School Principal Matt Summers the go-ahead to pursue a request for the middle school to participate in the Delta Garden Study program.
The Garden Study is a cooperative research project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) through the Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit.
Its goals are to reduce childhood obesity, decrease social risk behaviors, improve academic achievement, and support the farm-to-school effort by helping to provide fresh, locally grown produce to schools.
Summers said the school must give up one acre of land for the garden (likely on the west campus), middle school students must be willing to work the garden two times a week, and school students, staffers and community members must be willing to contribute a total of 50 volunteer hours a month.
In exchange, he said, the school will receive a one acre garden, a green house, tools, plus a full-time garden manager.
He said the fruits and vegetables will go to the cafeteria, and the program may include chickens and a worm garden.
"We may have to fence it," he said. "I'm asking for the board's blessing to pursue it."
Summers also reported: a recent benefit concert netted $1,100 for the shooting sports program, an Amber Beeson student-led Haiti relief effort raised $150 for the Red Cross; seventh grader Aleksei Smith took top wins in the Elks Hoop Shoot; and 44 of the middle school's 424 students ordered class rings for the first time.
Hired were Barrett Buck for math, Stacie Johnson as high school cheer coach, Donesa Mann for 3-5 yearbook, and Jill Geren as bus driver.
Resignations were accepted from custodian James Johnson and secretary Michelle Matzenbacher, tech staffer Drew Smith and Title 1 aide Sue Wilson, plus coach Bobby Bishop, ESL staffer Susan Newberry, and 3-5 Yearbook staffer Brenda Norris.
Certified moves approved for the school year ahead included: Cori Archer from fourth grade to ESL;Veronica Cooper from third to fourth; Annette Cormack added to the literacy lab; Mike Ledesma from math to ALE and math lab; Keri Lee from fourth to 3-5 PE; Paula Moore from counselor and Spanish to Spanish; and Nikki Tarvin from intervention 3-5 to fourth grade.
Classified moves for the year ahead include: Kerri Bishop from Title 1 aide to SPED aide; Brenda Champlin from high school library aide to high school counselor's secretary; Darla Edwards from ESL 3-5 to K-2 Title 1 aide; Denise Van Hook from assistant cafeteria manager to cafeteria manager; Linda Van Vlymen from library/math lab aide to Title 1 aide; and Sandy Williams from clerical to aide.
New positions approved for the school year ahead were: a shared counselor post for high school and as needed; sixth grade science, math and social studies teacher; intermediate physical education teacher, cafeteria worker, and a para- professional.
The board also rescinded its prior decision to combine the food service bookkeeper and cafeteria manager positions into one.
Doug Harris presented an update on building projects and costs; the choir was awarded $1,000 to help pay travel expenses to New Orleans for a national competition; and the low bid of $55,342 was accepted for server upgrades to be paid out of Title I funds.