More research needed: GF board pauses progress with Entegrity

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

By Haley Schichtl

The Green Forest school board agreed to do more research before moving forward on an agreement with Entegrity Energy at its meeting Monday, Oct. 28.

Both the city of Green Forest and the school district have approved project development agreements with Entegrity. If the projects move forward, Entegrity would construct solar arrays that would feed electricity into the power grid in exchange for credits on the entities’ electric bills.

“We’re looking at doing some co-location of the two solar facilities so that both of you can get the lowest rate possible,” Entegrity representative Sam Selig told the school board. “In September, you executed the project development agreement, the same agreement we’ve got going with the city.”

The cities of Berryville and Eureka Springs also recently have moved forward with project development agreements.

Selig presented a chart of what the school district is currently paying for energy and what the school would pay after switching to Entegrity.

“When I looked at this and saw your consumption-only rate at 9 cents, I was blown away,” Selig said. “The rate that we’re able to give you guys is 5.4 cents, and that is going to cost you about $78,000 versus $148,000.”

Selig said that in total, with the reduced rate from Entegrity, the district would have about a 40 percent annual savings rate. The contract is for 25 years, and the cost will be a set rate, which willmake budgeting easier, Selig explained.

“During the summertime, you’re going to overproduce, and then in the wintertime, you’re going to use the credits that you generated during the summertime to zero out those bills,” Selig said.

Selig said that because the school district does not own any land large enough for the solar facilities, Entegrity will purchase some land.

“It’s fully owned and operated by Entegrity,” Selig said. “After we’ve owned it for five years, if you guys wanted to purchase it, you can, and then in that case, your savings just go through the roof.”

Selig said Entegrity will be meeting with the city of Green Forest on Tuesday, Nov. 12, and superintendent Matt Summers said if the school board has made its decision by then, it might hold a special meeting that same day to meet Entegrity representatives while they are in town.

Selig also mentioned that Entegrity does some community involvement, and Summers mentioned they might invite an Entegrity representative to come and speak to Connect 4 students.

Summers also discussed with the possibility of the Connect 4 program incorporating a culinary school and its need to hire another instructor as discussed at its last advisory meeting.

“We’re at an impasse as far as keeping year one and year two students separated and on two different tracks, which industry requires,” Summers said. “We may be looking to add an additional instructor.”

Also at the meeting, Nikki Hutchison approached the board in a delegation about an issue she had with the school policy regarding cell phones after she said her son was punished for having his phone out.

“The handbook states that cell phones will be permitted only before school and after school,” Hutchison said. “Well, school starts at 8:00. He got this infraction at 7:32.”

Hutchison said that the rules had just been changed the day before her son was punished to not allow students to have cell phones out starting at 7:30 a.m. rather than at 8, though that specification is not in the handbook.

“They said an announcement was made; he did not hear it. I dropped him off at 7:25,” Hutchison said.

“So do you have a problem with the policy or do you have a problem with the disciplinary measures?” board president Bud Phillips said. “If you want to talk about a problem you have with the policy … in this setting, that is fine. If you have a complaint about disciplinary measures, you have to do that in a hearing setting.”

Hutchison said that she has a problem with the policy, because it does not specifically state a time it refers to, so it can be interpreted differently.

“So we have a discrepancy … on what the normal school hours is,” Philips said. “Maybe we need to go back and clarify that.”

In other business, the board approved five fundraisers: Student Council to host an October Fun House, Junior Beta Club to have a blanket drive for residents of the county’s nursing homes, the senior girls’ soccer team to sell food at soccer games, a men’s basketball league of personnel to have a game Saturday, and the Booster Club to sell T-shirts and bracelets.

The board also approved the English Language Learners (ELL) program policies for the 2019-2020 school year and the annual electronic funds transfer amendment, which allows the district to use “Positive Pay” and “BOB” softwares to protect against fraudulent charges, along with the regular electronic transfer of funds that the board approves annually.

The board then approved the transfer of two students into the Green Forest school district and to give each employee a bonus of $500 before the Thanksgiving holiday, which will cost the district approximately $131,000.

The board accepted a bid of $63,500 from Master’s Transportation for a new small special needs bus, which will fit 12 passengers and two wheelchairs.

“One of our special needs buses’ engines has failed. The bus is 10-plus years old and cost for a new engine is not our best option,” Summers said. “We have visited with Anstaff Bank to secure funds at 4 percent or lower interest to be paid on or before July 1, 2020.”

The board also voted to add Community Blood Center of the Ozarks to the Community Service Learning Plan list of community partners and to approve an alternate student class schedule change for a student to work more hours at his job.

Also at the meeting, the board voted to approve the resignation of special education paraprofessional Marcus Holland and the retirement of ESL elementary teacher Karla Etchison as of Jan. 1, 2020. The board also voted to re-employ Tracy Miles as a six-hour food service worker, employ Michael Gibbs as a three-hour food service worker, to employ Jerry Henson, Kiyoko Lanki and Bolien Jacob as full-time custodians beginning Nov. 1, and to add Charline White as an after-school tutor.

High school principal Tim Booth, middle school principal Keri Tackett and elementary principal Danette Chaney were all at the meeting to give updates on their schools.

“Green Forest Elementary has been recognized by the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas for demonstrating high growth on the ACT Aspire,” Chaney said. “So we’re going to be receiving two awards: statewide high English Language Arts growth for elementary — our score was 87.75 for growth in that area, and the highest in the state was 89.97. We’re also going to be recognized for high growth in the northwest region.”

“Our high school girls volleyball team won the conference, they are district tournament runner-ups and are headed to Paris, Arkansas tomorrow to play in the state tournament to play against Fountain Lake at 3,” Booth said. “Our high school band competed in the regional marching assessment last Tuesday and received excellent ratings, and that qualified them for the state marching competition at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock on Nov. 4.”

“Our seventh- and eighth-grade students have recently completed their reality check experience. We have had eighth-grade students last week attend the eighth-grade Teen Summit in Berryville at Bobcat Stadium, where they learned about issues that can affect them in their lives and how to best navigate through those through these years of their lives,” Tackett said.

The Green Forest school board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 18 at 5 p.m.

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