Retirements, resignations leave Berryville Schools with a dozen job openings

Friday, March 23, 2007

BERRYVILLE -- Nearly a dozen Berryville school staffers are stepping down from their positions, with most resignations effective May 31.

High school math instructor Tom Chew and first grade teacher Pam Lett both submitted retirement letters to the Board of Education.

Those retirements were approved by the board Monday night, along with nine resignations -- plus a medical leave for sixth grade teacher Betty Cox for the remainder of the 2006-07 school year.

Betty Cox, the wife of Superintendent Mike Cox, has been accused of being a bully by a group calling itself Pleasant Learning Environment Association (PLEA), which has staged candlelight vigils in front of the high school building before the start of each school board meeting.

According to a PLEA member, even though Betty Cox is no longer in the classroom, the group will continue its vigil because they say the administration failed to act on parental complaints over the past several years.

Resignations accepted by the board included those from Janice Beshoner (first grade teacher), Brenda Floyd (reading/language arts), Sandra Glover (high school English), John Ed Goodman (B.A.S.E. coordinator), Maria Goodman (fifth grade), Susan Hagler (first grade), Brandy Lovell (third grade), Christy Skelton (high school CBI), and Ryan Staggs (physical education and coach).

Two new teaching positions were established during the meeting to accommodate projected student enrollment at the K-3 building where 160 pupils are expected to enter the third grade. As such, a new third-grade teaching position was approved, along with a K-3 special education instructional slot.

The board also approved rehiring a list of certified personnel as recommended by the principals for the 2007-08 school year.

Continuing with personnel matters, the gifted and talented coordinator's contract was extended to 10 months, and a $585 stipend approved to cover Quiz Bowl, Math Links and Mock Trial participation.

Also, the board approved moving Janice Howard to the position of B.A.S.E. coordination for the 2007-08 school year.

When considering money matters, the board accepted a low bid of 4.19 percent for a $3 million-plus bond sale, which represented the remaining part of $13 million approved by voters in September for building projects.

Buster Beardsley, the fiscal agent for the school, said he was pleased with the bids received from five different bidders. He recommended the board accept the low bid, submitted by Sterne, Agee & Leach, Inc. He advised the board that five percent of the money must be spent in six months, and all the money spent within three years.

Superintendent Mike Cox said a bid opening for dirt work at the 3-5 building site is scheduled for 4 p.m., April 2, to be followed by a special school board meeting at 5:30 p.m. to award the bid.

Bids for construction of the 3-5 building on the West Campus is set for May 21, during a regular board meeting, he said, with a special board meeting to follow a week later, on May 29, to award that bid. Architects need time to review the bids before making their recommendation, he explained.

According to a project schedule submitted by architects, site work for the 3-5 building should start in early April and take nearly three months to complete.

Construction on the East Campus of the fine arts building and high school physical education facility is slated to begin in early June, along with construction of the multi-purpose building on the West Campus.

When asked if the state had approved all the projects slated for construction, Cox said all had been approved except for the multi-purpose. "I think we'll get it okayed," he commented.

He also noted that a new bus-only route from the West Campus to U.S. Hwy. 62 has been rerouted to meet city Planning and Zoning Commission requirements to ensure it lines up with Freeman Switch Road.

Campus-wide roof work was discussed, with Cox saying repairs to the new gym roof were complete and those on the K-3 building were nearly complete, but asked the board to approve up to $3,900 in funds to finish that work, which the board did.

He also received the board's approval to solicit bids for roof work at the middle school science wing, library, cafeteria, and kitchen area.

It was noted that the roof repair job at the gym exceeded estimates by some $9,000 because of prior water damage to interior surfaces, such as insulation, that had to be replaced.

Cox spoke briefly about student "mobility," saying it's a continuing trend. As an example, he said there were 75 students who left the district between Jan. 11 and March 12, and another 58 who enrolled.

The majority of those who departed listed their reasons as either moving out of state or enrolling in another school.

"That's a sampling of what's going on," he said.

In other business, the board: decided not to purchase a mini van for student transportation after checking with state officials; okayed renewal of a Model Policy agreement with the Arkansas School Board Association; and okayed a carwash fundraiser to benefit high school cheerleaders.

The carwash was approved with the stipulation that cheerleaders be appropriately dressed, and not stand alongside the highway attired only in two-piece bathing suits.

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