Eureka Springs board OKs sick leave payout

Friday, October 12, 2018

Students aren’t the only ones being rewarded for good attendance at the Eureka Springs School District.

The Eureka Springs School Board voted Monday to approve a new sick leave payout policy. The policy states that all employees who have exceeded the 120-day cap for sick leave will be reimbursed $65 per day for every additional sick day.

Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said the new policy is for both classified and licensed employees.

“This policy will affect four employees this coming year. It takes approximately 12 years to accumulate over 120 sick days,” he said. “It will be a nice incentive for employees who don’t use sick days.”

Pruitt presented the financial reports to the board, stating that the district currently has a bank balance of $8,288,000, a total fund balance of $8,324,000 and a legal balance of $1,344,000. The board voted to approve the financial reports.

The board also voted to approve the district-wide parent involvement policy and three student transfers and to accept the resignation of Lance Wildeman from the maintenance department.

Before the regular board meeting, the district gave its annual report to the public.

Pruitt said the district currently has an enrollment of 601 students and finances of about $8.3 million.

“I hear all the time that we’re sitting on millions and should spend some of that money,” he said. “We have $6.7 million in our building fund. The one deal that never gets brought up is we owe $12.2 million on bond and debt, mainly for the new high school.”

He said the district will be debt-free by 2040 if it does not borrow more money.

“That sounds like a long way, but it’s just 21 years,” Pruitt said. “We do not get foundation funds or partnership funds from the state.”

He explained that partnership funds are based on a school district’s poverty level and pay for a percentage of new building projects.

“In Eureka, we do not get those partnership funds,” Pruitt said. “We have a little bit of money, but we also owe money. We have to have that money for a rainy day because we still have to pay bills.”

He also reported on the district’s projects for this school year.

“We’re building an outdoor classroom to be used by our high school, middle school and elementary,” Pruitt said. “We’re also doing an elementary renovation and getting closer on our FEMA building, which is a safe shelter that can be used for our district and also by the public.”

He said a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) pays for 75 percent of the shelter, and the district will pay 25 percent.

“We’re getting closer and closer on that all the time,” he said.

Pruitt said Eureka Springs has also been selected as one of a handful of Arkansas school districts to receive funding through the Arkansas Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education (AWARE) grant project.

“In the past, there have been some projects like Kentucky AWARE and Minnesota AWARE tied back to the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut a few years ago,” he said. “The states got funds to help identify student behavior issues and problems.”

Pruitt continued, “After this last school shooting in Florida, they re-appropriated more funds. There’s $9.2 million for the Arkansas AWARE project.”

He said three schools were awarded the grant: Texarkana, Marvell and the Ozarks Unlimited Resource (OUR) Educational Services Cooperative, which includes Eureka Springs.

“OUR co-op researched its schools and looked at people that have been doing training for disaster and students issues and behavioral problems,” Pruitt said. “We’ve done a lot of that training, so we were selected as one of the three schools the coop gave funding to. It was Eureka Springs, Valley Springs and Ozark Mountain.”

The five-year grant will distribute $1.8 million to the district each year, he said, to hire a behavioral specialist for the Eureka Springs campus. He said the district started advertising for the position on Oct. 1.

“They will be housed at our campus to help students identify possible behavioral and mental health issues,” Pruitt said. “That’s a nice thing for us to be involved in. We’re excited to report we’re part of that.”

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, in the administration building.

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