During Monday’s Heber Springs School District (HSSD) Board meeting, Jill LaRosa, Special Education Director, presented the District Improvement Progress report on the Special Education program.
    “Our goal was to have thirty percent of our students receive the functional and basic assessment,” stated LaRosa. “We hit sixty percent! We used that data to target some specific goals. We used fifty percent as our target goal to achieve Individual Education Plans. We hit 90% on that goal!”
    According to LaRosa, the next step in the improvement process is to work the same goals until 100% is reached on all goals within the three-year timeline.
    “Principals can use this data when they’re observing classes and performing teacher evaluations to see how they measured progress for their students,” LaRosa explained.
    Amy Cornett, District Coordinator for Testing, presented the 2016-2017 scores on the ACT Aspire test that is taken every year by students beginning in the third grade through the eleventh grade. HSSD outperformed state scores in Subject Proficiency, ELA (English, Reading, Writing), and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). District wide the Subject Proficiency scores for grades 3-10 were: English, 77%; Math, 55%; Reading, 49%; Science, 49%; and, Writing, 54%. HSSD is ranked 24th in the state out of 248 school districts.
    The Office for Education Policy (OEP), University of Arkansas, recognized the Heber Springs Middle School with four awards for Outstanding Educational Performance. The High Achieving Overall, ELA, Math and Science awards are based on the OEP school GPA and calculated by using the percentage of students that performed at each level on the 2016 ACT Aspire test. Heber Springs Middle School is ranked 44th in the state out of 314 middle schools.
    “There was a greater separation from us and the state,” explained Dr. Alan Stauffacher, Superintendent. Because of the growing separation, I think somewhere down the road, at least this is what we’re shooting for, we won’t have to measure the state. There were only a few instances where we had no growth district wide.”
    “We didn’t put our best foot forward in writing,” Stauffacher continued. “We’ve really gotten just barely in the baby steps in writing, but we’re raising the level for everyone. Research shows that if your kids can write well, they’re going to perform well at the college level. There’s only a 10% difference between college bound curriculum and a career bound student.”
    In the ACT for grade 11, the percent of students’ ready for college-level coursework was 18.4%. Readiness benchmarks are: English, 44%; Math, 21%; Reading, 24%; and, Science 14%. The percentage of students proficient in all four subjects was 10%. The state was higher than HSSD 11th grade ACT scores. According to Arkansas School Rankings, Heber Springs High School ranks 33rd out of 261 high schools. In 2014 the college remediation rate in Arkansas was 41.4%. It has dropped to 39.7% in 2016.
    Food Service Director, Pam Tamburo, presented the 2016 rules of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) nutrition standards, which the USDA required starting in the 2014-2015 school year.
    “Food and Nutrition will follow the “Smart Snack” diet,” stated Tamburo. “A Smart Snack can have 200 calories, less than 200mg of sodium, 35% or less of calories can be fat, saturated fat can only be 10%. It can have no trans-fats. The sugar content must be 35% or less by weight. Then you must figure the amount students can have for the high school and middle school. It’s almost impossible for someone to figure it out, but that’s where the Smart Snack Alliance Calculator comes in.”
    The USDA Smart Snack Calculator can be found by searching for the Alliance Calculator in a person’s web browser. The website will take the user step by step through the process to determine if a product is compliant with the Smart Snack rules. If it isn’t compliant, it can’t be sold or served on a school campus except for the nine days when school parties are allowed, i.e. Halloween, Valentine’s Day, before Christmas party, etc.
    “It doesn’t matter what I think, it’s what the government thinks,” stated Tamburo. She handed out a document with the rules that will be followed for the 2017-18 school year. “We’re going to publish the rules in the newspaper and hand it out to the teachers so everybody knows in the community.”
    Tamburo also provided a list of healthy snacks for kids that are Smart Snack compliant foods to make it easier for teachers and administrators. She went over the rules that governed when children could be served a Smart Snack during a school day and the rule exceptions when “minimal nutrition value” foods are allowed.
    “A parent can send anything they want with their child, but neither parent nor the child can share it, even with their best friend,” Tamburo explained.
    The debate over the superintendent evaluation process continued with Judy Crowder recommending that the school district adopt the ADE endorsed evaluation. She also thought that the board members should take advantage of the strategic planning and superintendent evaluation training the Arkansas School Board Association offered.
    “I certainly don’t want to sit here and say that I’m smarter than them, I can write up my own,” stated Crowder. “They put a lot of research into this and piloted it. This is the third year they’ve had it and to me, I think it’s foolhardy for us to say, “Pasha, they don’t know what they’re talking about. We can do this better than them.”
    Board members Richard Whybrew and Gary Redd thought that the ADE endorsed evaluation format was too burdensome, that new board members in September would have to be trained at additional costs, and that they could schedule a work session and produce something unique to HSSD. Board member Kevin Thomas was somewhere in the middle. No consensus was reached by the board.