GF board approves community service learning plan

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

By Kelby Newcomb

Green Forest High School students may be able to receive academic credit for community service.

The Green Forest School Board voted Monday to approve a community service learning (CSL) plan. Superintendent Matt Summers said he discussed the plan with counselor Jonie Standlee and Melissa Starkey, public school program adviser with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE). He said the plan addresses the three mandated elements of CSL: preparation, action and reflection. The next step, he said, will be to press forward with a curriculum addition request using the plan as the basis for ADE approval.

Summers said the plan would implement a new curriculum elective for high school students titled Community Service Learning. A student who completes a documented total of 75 hours of CSL shall be eligible to receive one academic credit that may be applied toward graduation, he said.

“This is a credit, not a graded course,” Summers said, “and the course will not be calculated in the student’s grade point average (GPA) or used for class rank. The hours have to be signed off on, and a reflection has to be written after the fact.”

He said no half or partial credits will be awarded for CSL.

“This program also allows our students to create some of those community attachments we’ve talked about for resume material — things that separate them from other students across the state when it comes to scholarship time,” Summers said. “It is a volunteer program. No one is expected to do that without asking to do so.”

Board member Peggy James asked if students would have to complete the 75 hours of community service in one year. Summers said they can do it over the course of two years, and all of it must be documented and pre-approved.

“Does it replace any other credit?” James asked.

“No, it’s a local credit only,” Summers said.

He said there was a big push for the CSL program about 10 years ago, but interest waned over the years. Recently, he said, students have expressed interest again.

“It replaces no other program,” he said, “and, in fact, may supplement other programs.”

The board voted to approve a Green Forest Middle School after-school tutoring program. Summers said tutoring will be provided to middle school students two to three days a week with a focus on math, an area of identified need. Janet Jones will serve as the building tutor at a rate of $35 per hour, he said, and will provide documentation of time worked to middle school principal Tim Booth. Summers said NSL funding will be utilized for salaries and benefits.

The board voted to approve the 2020-21 Proposed Budget. The budget says the school tax rate will remain at 36 mills.

“Those are just the bare-bones numbers in nine different categorical areas,” Summers said. “It’s part of the legal process of planning and preparing for the future.”

The board also voted to approve a facilities consortium agreement with Aliza Jones, who has been contracted the last few years to serve as a facilities consultant for the district. Her contract was renewed for two years beginning July 1, 2019.

“Aliza has been a great resource for the district,” Summers said, “in securing partnership funds and keeping us in accordance with facilities requirements and additional opportunities for facilities support.”

He said there would be a $200 reduction in her salary, bringing it down to a cost of $5,400 for the district. Fringe benefits and miscellaneous expenditures will be divided among the 16 school districts Jones serves based on their percentage of salary paid, Summers said.

“She has tried to take a reduction for her longstanding schools because she has added a few others,” he said, “and wants to reward those of us who have been with her a significant amount of time.”

The board later voted to approve paying a third of the approximately $35,000 cost for trainers for the Connect 4 program, with the Berryville and Eureka Springs school districts each paying a third of the cost as well. Summers said Rodney Ellis, president of the C4 board of directors, said the payment from the schools will be submitted to the state for reimbursement, which will allow the $35,000 Tyson Foods paid for the trainers to be donated back to the C4 account.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, March 11, in the high school library.

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