ES Board approves commitment to after-school program

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Eureka Springs School Board voted at a special meeting Tuesday to continue the Eureka Springs Community Center’s After-School Program.

Diane Murphy, chairwoman of the Eureka Springs Community Center Foundation, presented the board with drafts of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and a contract for services between the foundation and school district to provide after-school services.

At the board’s regular July meeting, the board and community center foundation had agreed to have their respective attorneys discuss a possible solution for how the district could continue the after-school program.

“My understanding is that there is a general agreement between the sets of attorneys now,” Murphy said. “Is that accurate?”

Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said he did not know if they had reached an agreement.

Board member Al Larson said Jay Bequette, general counsel for the Arkansas School Boards Association (ASBA), had advised there could be a contract for services with the community center.

“The one sticking point that Jay insisted on was that the community center would have to pay for facilities,” Larson said.

Murphy recommended the board speak directly with Laveta Wills-Hale, the head of Arkansas Out of School Network, who had helped the foundation devise a strategy to continue the after-school program.

Board president Chris McClung asked if Wills-Hale has been involved in a similar situation where a school district funded an after-school program through a contract for services with a subcontractor.

“She has a couple examples. I’ll forward the whole email to you with her contact information,” Murphy said. “She’d be happy to talk to you.”

She said the community center foundation needed to know if the board intended to continue the after-school program so parents could be notified before the new school year begins.

“Could you do some sort of a motion that says it is your intention to fund an after-school program using the community center as a partner,” she said, “at no cost to the community center contingent on the contract being resolved or finalized?”

Murphy said the community center foundation would not launch the after-school program or pass any information to families until the district made a commitment to the program.

McClung said he was not comfortable voting on a motion like that without the full board present.

“I think we’ve said the district would support the after-school program,” he said. “We believe it’s a good thing for our community to have. Until we can get all figured out on how to do this legally and keep the state and the auditors happy, then I am not comfortable in voting.”

McClung continued, “We do have a quorum. We could do it, but without the other board members’ input, I’m personally not comfortable doing any kind of a motion related to this.”

Larson said he would be willing to make a motion to come to an agreement with the community center foundation.

“I’m making a motion that the school board make a commitment to enter into an agreement with the community center to have this year’s after-school program,” he said.

Board member Joe Hill seconded the motion.

“When it comes to notifying parents, what if the attorneys come back and say we can’t work that out?” Hill asked.

He said he would rather get the issues resolved and have the program start later in the school year than have to notify parents the program won’t be happening after telling them it would be.

Pruitt said he did not recommend approving the motion.

“My recommendation to the board is that I haven’t seen any clear legal agreement from our lawyers,” he said, “so I don’t feel comfortable recommending this. We don’t have a clear agreement from our lawyers telling us that we can spend our funds appropriately on an after-school program.”

Board members Larson, Hill and Travis Holloway voted in favor of making the commitment to enter into an agreement with the community center for this year’s after-school program. McClung voted against the motion.

On Wednesday morning, Pruitt said he’s wary of the board’s decision. The full board wasn’t at the meeting, Pruitt said, and McClung didn’t support the motion.

“I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to tell our board I’m not in favor of this,’ ” Pruitt said. “I can’t recommend this, because our attorneys have not given us the legal direction that this is a thing to do.”

Also at the meeting, the board voted to accept the resignations of Jamie Chapman, Stephen Crewse and Rachel Sicard and approved hiring Jerry Smith as a teacher and Stephen Crewse as a computer technician.

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

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