Member calls curriculum change dumbing down the curriculum, board tables discussion

Mr. Johnston proposed to the school board that the Computer Business Application courses be changed from a required class needed to graduate to an elective class instead. His reasoning was those who wanted to take the class would elect it and therefore thrive in the class as opposed to someone who has no interest in the class but has to take it anyway to graduate. Johnston believes that teaching ninth graders basic computer skills is too late when Common Core will require sixth graders to type three page papers. The district requires 23 credits to graduate and if the CBA class is removed from the required courses the credits to graduate will remain the same. School board member Holly Meyer asked what grade the class would be taught if not in the ninth grade and no one had an answer for her. The depth of what each grade will be required to complete is uncertain so the administrators had no answer. A suggestion might be fourth grade but Mr. Mueller was uncertain if they could handle it and wanted to wait and see what the State would require. Meyer said she would like to postpone a decision for the next 30 days and does not like the idea of dumbing down the curriculum if it was not required at some other grade level. Meyer suggested it be tabled because it had not been discussed with all teachers K through 12 to decide vertical integration on where that class should be placed. Then Johnston told Meyer that her comment insulted him and went against every professional bone in his body and he did not appreciate it. A little more discussion on Roberts Rule of Order came into play because a motion was on the table to approve the request. Redd and Meyer voted no and board members Al Thomas and Rick Gardner voted yes. Kevin Thomas had left the meeting earlier and was not there to vote on the issue. The motion was withdrawn and the topic will be discussed at the February meeting.

Johnston also recommended removing the grade classification for students based on credits and he said that will also help the graduation rates for the district as the Arkansas Department of Education currently tracts it. That was approved.

In old business Brooks Jackson an architect handling the future wish list projects for the district gave the Heber Springs School Board members a handout with budget estimates to consider. Jackson consulted with Nabholz Company to estimate the costs related to a similar project in Greenbrier. Jackson’s handout estimated a cost of $6.8 to $7 million for an 850 seat Performing Fine Arts Center; a new cafeteria estimated $2.4 to $2.6 million, an improved and upgraded security system estimated to cost $240,000 to $250,000. Jackson proposed installing additional fencing, adding 31 outside surveillance cameras, new locks in strategic locations and improved lighting.  At this point Jackson asked his partner in the firm, James Vandiver, to speak on security and people. Vandiver said, “Cameras are not a security system it’s a tool, your protocol, policy and procedures and what you allow to happen on campus is your security system”. The policy and procedures to handle child custody situations or an example of a teacher being stalked and shot on campus then leaving the campus and killing himself, was that concern ever mentioned to those in leadership?  An environment to discuss any potential security issue is what’s needed, suggested Vandiver. Hester began to tell Vandiver that he spoke with administrators and local law enforcement officials and the biggest reoccurring theme and concern was how to stop John Doe from doing something like that. Vandiver said one way to prevent that, “A good guy with a gun to go in and get the bad guy with the gun and eliminate the deal”. Vandiver went on to say what others will not say because it’s not politically correct. At this point Jackson spoke up and mentioned number nine on the agenda will also help in security. Number nine was to be discussed later in the meeting by Hester to hire a 2nd officer.

As Jackson referred back to his handout OT/PT was estimated at $450,000 to $470,000 and repair of the track at $200,000 and a new track closer to $300,000. Jackson will report back to the board on exactly what is needed to repair the track and the best way to handle the runoff from the football field which is causing the problems on the track. President Gary Redd asked if the estimates were turn-key and would not include a construction management fee and Jackson could not answer the question and said he would get that information to Hester.

Concerning the 2nd officer Hester thinks there will be money available for hiring additional security from the Federal Government based on what President Obama’s said in response to Sandy Hook Elementary. “If no money is available I would still like to pursue the possibility”, said Hester. A job description will be provided for the potential new officer and Redd said they will look into a new officer if Federal money was not available.

Due to scheduling conflicts President Redd changed the next two regular monthly school board meetings to February 11 and then March 11.

School board members dismissed into a brief Executive Session to discuss Superintendent Hester’s contract with no decision made or reported at time of adjournment.