C4 board reviews first year of program
By Kelby Newcomb
The Connect 4 program has nearly finished its first year in Carroll County, and the C4 Board of Directors is looking at ways to improve it going forward.
The board met Wednesday at the Carroll County Career Center in Berryville. C4 administrative assistant Jennifer Winkle said the program has five Eureka Springs students, 28 Berryville students and 14 Green Forest students enrolled for the 2019-20 school year.
“We’re showing growth,” said Green Forest Superintendent Matt Summers. “We all knew it would happen.”
He said he expects more students will want to enroll at the beginning of next school year.
“We had some kids who didn’t speak great of [C4] and then some who were raving fans,” Summers said. “You’re going to have that with anything. I know this year was chaotic. The startup year is always the hardest. Experience is a wonderful thing.”
He continued, “We’re very pleased with the program. We anticipate more students will sign up than we have on paper right now.”
Berryville Superintendent Owen Powell said he has heard very little negative feedback on the program.
“Most of what I heard was positive,” he said. “I think most of our kids liked it and had good things to say.”
He asked C4 director James Knight if there was anything he plans to change going forward now that he has a year of experience under his belt.
“No cell phones at all on campus,” Knight said. “That will be a change.”
“They can either leave it in their car,” Winkle said, “or leave it in my office.”
“You’re going to get some kids as the program grows who don’t need to be here,” Summers said. “It’s the hardest thing you have to do. We’re going to back you on that.”
He said the schools do not want one student to ruin the experience for the rest.
Knight said he would also like to get another instructor for the program.
“We need a second set of eyes out there,” he said.
“What would that position look like?” Powell asked. “What is your vision?”
“If I was going to do it, I would do just base salary instructor,” Knight said.
“Basically a beginning teacher salary,” Powell said.
“With a 190-day contract?” Summers asked.
Knight said that was correct.
“I’ll still maintain being here the whole time, supervising, teaching classes and being the main go-to guy,” he said.
At previous jobs, Knight said he had lab technicians who assisted with instruction. Powell and Summers asked if knew anyone who might be interested in a job like that.
“I know two people who would do it today,” Knight said.
“Is this one hire going to be sufficient for the next two, three or five years?” Summers asked. “At what point do we have to look at more?”
Knight said he believed one additional instructor would be satisfactory for the next five to six years.
“I’m not afraid of working or trying to wrangle kids,” he said. “My point is the curriculum and the safety. For the most part, the students respond well, but when you have two people up here, like whenever [board president] Rodney Ellis comes in, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
With more supervision, Knight said the students are more studious and pay more attention.
Summers suggested the board table the potential new position as an agenda item for the June meeting.
“My board member is not here, and Eureka Springs is not represented,” he said. “I need to visit with our school board first. We have a meeting coming up Monday, May 20.”
Powell said he is concerned about the new position because of the potential cost.
“If we hold true on our plan to break the cost into percentages based on number of students for year two,” he said, “looking at the numbers that’s Berryville picking up the majority of the tab. I do have some concerns with that because we’ll be picking up 50 percent of that. At the same time, I don’t want to hold the C4 program back either.”
Summers also updated the board on the proposed drug-testing of C4 students, which was brought up at the March board meeting.
“Berryville and Eureka Springs already have those policies in place. It will just be a handbook change,” he said. “For [Green Forest schools], it would be a new program. I introduced that to the board for the first reading. We talked about it and presented Berryville’s policy and Eureka Springs’s policy.”
Summers said the Green Forest School Board will revisit the issue at its May meeting and have the third reading and a vote at the June board meeting, when the handbook is approved.
“No one was outspoken against or for it,” he said. “I have not met with all of our sponsors and coaches yet. We are moving forward in that direction.”