ES board votes to increase insurance contribution

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Eureka Springs School District has added a new incentive for its staff members.

The Eureka Springs School Board voted at its Tuesday meeting to increase the district’s health insurance contribution rate for staff members from $303 per month to $315 per month. Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said the change means any staff member whose spouse has insurance somewhere else or who doesn’t have children will have their insurance completely covered by the district.

“It will cost our district $16,000 to do that for all staff members,” Pruitt said. “We did put that in the budget this year. I think it’s a great incentive for teachers and our staff members to basically get free insurance here. It’s a good recruiting tool as well.”

The board also voted to appoint Debbie Davis, who had just served a three-year term and did not file for re-election, to fill her vacant board seat for another year. Board members Chris McClung, Gayla Wolfinbarger, Joe Hill and Jason Morris voted to approve the appointment. Since four members were needed for approval, Morris was contacted by phone to vote.

Pruitt explained that new school board policies state that board members can call in to vote on anything that takes place during open session. However, he said, they may not vote by phone during executive session.

The board then voted to elect new officers, choosing to have Chris McClung, Al Larson and Gayla Wolfinbarger serve another year as president, vice president and secretary, respectively.

The board also voted to appoint Larson as the Connect 4 Board representative.

“We have a board member who represents us on the Connect 4 committee,” Pruitt said. “We met once, and Al went with me. He would like to serve as our representative, but if Al cannot be there, any board member can go in his place. We do have one legal vote as a board.”

The board later voted to revise the 2017-18 Salary Schedule to change the rate of pay for bus aides from an hourly rate to $15 per trip.

“We have four students who require an aide on bus routes,” Pruitt said. “We need to move their pay back to $15 per trip instead of an hourly rate because of overtime issues. Staff members are OK with that. Most of our routes are 45 minutes or less, so it’s not a bad compensation.”

The board also voted to table discussion on whether to hold future school elections in May or November because of new state laws requiring them to coincide with the primary or general elections. Pruitt said the Berryville School District decided to hold its elections in May, and the Green Forest School District is leaning toward May as well.

“We can select May and join the group, or we can wait a month to decide,” he said. “If they both go May and we go November, we would have to foot the whole bill.”

Pruitt said the board needs to decide by December.

Davis suggested the board wait to see what Green Forest decides before selecting a date.

“It would be much cheaper if we could all do the same date,” she said. “I think May would be better. That way, you have your school board members in place for the next school year. That is important.”

The board postponed the vote for its November meeting.

Also at the meeting, sophomore Carson Mowrey presented preliminary information on the Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) program’s outdoor classroom project. He shared some images of the proposed design and said the outdoor classroom would feature raised beds for gardening, a rainwater collection system and a wall around the structure. Mowrey said the EAST students are thinking about having the art class put a mosaic on the wall.

“We plan to research grant opportunities for the bulk of the cost,” he said. “This outdoor classroom would benefit the agri class and any class that would like to use it.”

Mowrey said there would be picnic tables set up for students to work on and do experiments.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, in the administration building.

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