Tupelo School Board meeting has begun. All five board members are present. The Hancock Center is decorated for Christmas with a tree in one corner and wreaths and plastic holly spread across several tables.
TPSD Dyslexia Coordinator Cepia Buchanan is giving an update on the district’s dyslexia program.
Challenges of dyslexia include oral language, written language, sensory motor and behavior.
Buchanan: “This is not something that just effects a child’s reading. It also effects them socially and emotionally.”
“Roughly 20 percent of our population at Tupelo Public School District has dyslexia.”
TPSD got a grant from Mississippi Department of Education. It covers the Barton program the district will use and certified Barton tutors, among other things.
75 students in the district have a dyslexia ruling and another 25 (out of 45 screenings) have characteristics of dyslexia. The district will still serve those who do not show characteristics. The district currently serves about 200 students. Those are students with dyslexia and language struggles.
Barton is a language program. It is multi-sensory, using colorful blocks, finger movements and touch, among other things. Buchanan is showing a video of tutors using the Barton program in the district.
TPSD Finance Director Linda Pannell will now make a presentation on the history of the district’s fund balance.
It looks at the general fund over the past six years. The district had $6.8 million in reserve in the 2006-07 school year and ended the 2011-12 school year with $8.6 million. She expects to have the same amount left in the fund balance at the end of this school year.
The amount fluctuated during that period from a low of $6.1 million to a high of $9.5 million during the 2010-11 school year.
Pannell notes state cuts that came during recent years after the district had already passed its budget.
“The district tries to maintain its fund balance so we can make it though those times that are unpredictable when we budget.”
Board President Eddie Prather asks how much the state recommends districts to keep in their fund balance. Pannell said 5 percent but she aims for 7 percent. She said TPSD needs to have 7 percent so it can get through the “lean months” of December and January when it has payroll and other obligations but has not yet received its local tax money. Otherwise, Pannell said, the district has to issue a tax anticipation note.
Tupelo High School Principal Jason Harris introduces the THS madrigals who enter the room in medieval costume and singing. The group is under the direction of Suzy White Williams. About a dozen girls and half dozen boys circle around the room and continue singing. They then sing two more songs, including “Deck the Halls.” Given the Christmas tree, singing and holly, the ambiance is not one of a typical school board meeting. The group then sings another song while leaving the room to a standing ovation.
Pannel presents a report on the district’s financial statements.
Now Pannell is presenting a report on the district’s 2010-11 audit.
Human resources director Jim Turner is making the personnel report. It includes two National Board Certified Teachers receiving supplements.
Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon now presents the discipline report. Board approves the recommendations. It includes expulsion of one student for a year.
The district is making amendments to its joint use agreement with the city of Tupelo involving city facilities and school playgrounds.
Facilities director Julie Hinds will speak to the amendments. They added language to include buildings, not just playgrounds. It includes Lawhon gym, Milam gym, middle school gym and high school gym and stadium. It adds city tennis courts, swimming pool, baseball fields, soccer sportsplex and baseball fields at Ballard park and the cross country trail.
This updates the agreement.
Dillon: “We are trying to clean that up so that we have a current, updated agreement.”
Board approves the changes.
Hinds is presenting a summary report of a request for permission to advertise for sealed bids for several construction projects.
Loden: we are asking the board to allow us to proceed on long-term projects: expand at ECEC to have more pre-K classes (“we are looking at ways to expand pre-K”, construction takes about a year…”We can be a district that takes a lead in universal pre-K”), adding on to high school cafeteria, replacing windows and carpet at Carver and taking the baseball facility and modernizing it (“It is a great field but we want to modernize it and make sure it has all of the things we need at a 6A baseball field”). If the board approves, we will proceed with plans.
Hinds: at ECEC, there is an option of 4, 6, 8 or 10 classrooms. Would include all the needed restrooms.
Loden said the baseball field will include lots of renovations and restrooms.
Prather asks about handicap accessibility at the baseball field
Hinds: We may not be fully accessible at the beginning of this season but we will work toward it and get it as far along as we can as quickly as we can. We have a plan to work toward it.
Harris said the cafeteria plan would allow them to feed more students. Right now the day has to planned around lunch because the school has to feed 2,100 students. Hinds said the plan would allow for 200 more students, plus outside space.
Superintendent Gearl Loden is providing an update:
Loden said the district is hosting a reception for its retirees tomorrow.
About 200 people have indicated they may be here tomorrow.
Last day of the first semester is Dec. 19. Staff will return on Jan. 3 and students on Jan. 4.
The district will begin working on its handbooks in January and February with a goal to have them complete by March.
Panell is announcing the awarding of a bid for copying and printing.
Seven companies bid. She is recommending the bid be awarded to the RJ Young company.
It is predicted to be four-year savings of $539,000, she said. It will include new equipment and fewer models. The IT department will no longer be called to fix problems, the company will do that.
Pannell said it will put the district in more control of what printers and copies are in the district. The district will be paying on a per-copy basis instead of rental.
“I know people have printers, I have one I’m attached to, but I’ll have to give it up for the new one. We’ll have that experience, but save the district money in the long run,” Pannell said.
She said most of the copiers the district uses now have been rented.
“We make a lot of copies in this district,” Pannell said. “Even though we have the laptops….In other districts our size they make a lot more copies, so we have decreased our copies.”
Hudson asks about the per-copy basis. He asks if there are initiatves that can reduce copies, other than parents brining printing paper.
“I hope so,” Pannell said. “It will be a learning process for us. We will try to get people to print their larger jobs to the copier instead of to printers.”
Board accepts the bid of RJ Young.
Board goes into executive session to consider a student discipline case and a personnel decision.