The Mena School Board met for their regular March meeting on Monday, March 27th at the district administration building.
The meeting began with Mena High School Principal David Maxwell addressing the board about community service hours. He asked the board to approve a plan that would allow students to earn hours and graduate with a community service credit. MHS currently has no community service partnerships recorded and legal with the state. Maxwell presented the board with a list of organizations willing to partner with the schools that will need to be submitted by May 1st. That list included:
1. Special Olympics Arkansas
2. The Crossing
3. Green House Cottages
4. The Ouachita LIttle Theatre
5. The Salvation Army
7. The Call
8. CASA of the Ouachitas
9. UA Kids College
The board approved the plan.
Maxwell also submitted a plan to make the free ACT Test for MHS Seniors an annual event. The board had earlier approved the test being made available this school year. A total of 72 seniors took advantage of the free exam. The board approved of making the test available on a yearly basis and it will be administered in the first two weeks of October.
Assistant Superintendent Bridget Buckley then spoke to the board about the district's ongoing efforts to address literacy shortcomings in the elementary schools. A new program has been instituted and students are already showing growth and making unit gains.
Superintendent Dr. Lee Smith then updated those in attendance on the LEARNS Act. Specifically how LEARNS will impact teacher pay and classified salaries. Smith outlined the following points to the board:
The Good Things
*The minimum teacher salary will now be $50,000 per year.
*Any teacher at or above $50K will receive at least a $2000 raise.
*Mena is receiving approximately $900,483 in new funding to cover these increases.
The Dangerous Things
*Our salary schedule is based on a minimum of $37,500 for 190 days of work. It is built to provide a yearly cost of living increase or step, pays increased amounts for advanced degrees, pays increased amounts for added duties through a multiplier, and pays increased amounts based on days above 190. The increased funding does not cover this type of salary schedule.
*Should MPS keep its current salary schedule, we will have an unfunded increase of $424,462 in the first year and this does not include benefits, which is an additional $97,626.
*Mena spends 80-85% of our state funding for salaries on salaries, which indicates little cushion to absorb this cost and we are always over budget for maintenance and operations, which is where this little cushion does go.
*The LEARNS Act did nothing for classified salaries; therefore, we must fund an increase for these employees from our foundation funds.
*The new funds do not account for employees paid with federal or categorical funds and I do not want to reassign anyone.
*Foundation funding will increase by $205 per student and this amount will generate an additional $305,237.
*There will be an additional $153 per student funded in 2024-2025 generating approximately $260,000
*Increasing classified salaries by at least $2000 to compare to the teachers will cost approximately $290,000.
*We will have to pay an additional $105,000 employee insurance contribution next year. We had a $105,000 increase this year for a total of $210,000.
*Most, if not all, other schools are in this same situation.
*This is an event like COVID being unprecedented and there’s no guidance on how to proceed.
*We do not know how many of our students will take advantage of the educational voucher program.
*Add $2000 to all employees' salaries who are currently at $48,000 or above and freeze them there for FY24.
*Add enough to all salaries below $48,000 to meet the $50,000 minimum and freeze those salaries for FY24.
*Work with the PPC throughout the 2023-2024 school year to build a new and suitable salary schedule and gain more understanding of how LEARNS will impact the district financially.
*Teachers still have the other half of our retention bonus to come at the end of this school year.
Smith agreed to keep the board posted as more information became available.
Dr. Smith then recommended a student expulsion. The student is to be expelled for 365 days with a virtual option being made available for the student to continue their education during this time. The board approved.
Next on the agenda was the 2021-2022 Audit. Dr. Smith was happy to report that the district received a clean audit and that there were no negative findings.
Board Member Clint Montgomery then read a pair of resolutions. The first was the School Choice Capacity Resolution and the second was the Board Member Election Resolution. Both were approved with no discussion .
District Maintenance Supervisor Danny Minton then updated the board on projects. The gym floors will be resurfaced in May. He is looking for a way to keep the cost down on painting the baseboard area around the district. These areas were damaged when the hallway floors were resurfaced recently. Work is to be done on the baseball scoreboard this week and he asked the board to approve the purchase of a new dishwasher at Holly Harshman Elementary. The board approved the low bid of $18,069.69 by Markham Restaurant Supply.
Dr. Smith added that the district had received a safety grant that would pay for the installation of a new higher fence at Louise Durham Elementary, a one key lock system at HHE, door alarm across the district as well as signage for security.
The board next approved the latest financial report with Dr. Smith stating that expenditures in February outpaced revenue but the district was still on target for a positive balance at the end of the year.
Next the topic of season passes for athletic events was brought up for discussion. After some debate the board directed Dr. Smith to research the topic and report back to the board.
Finally the board accepted the retirement of Brent Tibbs as Custodian at LDE and the resignation of Abigail Denton as Para at LDE .
3-28-23 2:37 PM KAWX.ORG
KAWX is now at 89.3 FM!