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School board eyes pay increases, curriculum

Pay raises, preparation for changeover to the Common Core state standards, caring for families during the holidays and other issues marked the Nov. 13 meeting of the Cabot School District board of directors.

Superintendent Tony Thurman and school board members Brian Evans, Ricky Hill, Dean Martin, Wendel Msall, Mark Russell and Corey Williams attended the meeting. Donna Nash was absent.

Curriculum director Tammy Tucker told of the continuing work to shift the district’s curriculum to Common Core state standards. Tucker described the changeover as a “cultural shift.”

“We are trying to promote students from being ‘answer getters’ to, truly, ‘problem solvers,’” Tucker said.

“That is what they will need to be able to do to be successful,” she said.

Tucker also told of attending, along with five other administrators, the 2012 Leadership Academy sponsored by the International Center for Leadership in Education. The academy featured talks by a number of leaders in education, she said.

“The focus of the academy was on creating a culture that fosters excellence … It was a fabulous conference, tons of awesome information,” Tucker said.

Michele French told of Cabot School District’s Leadership Academy for faculty.

“This is an exciting piece that we started in the school district this year,” French said. Cabot’s program parallels the national program, she said.

There were 53 faculty members who applied to attend. The large response prompted planners to split the academy into elementary and secondary groups, French said. Instead of the original four sessions, there will now be eight, she said.

Each session will be about three hours, studying “all types of leadership activities,” French said.

Subjects include conducting meetings, problem solving, teamwork, trends in leadership development, interviewing techniques and “just learning about how to lead staff members,” French said.

French also told of the development of Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) in the district. “We started … last week,” she said.

Sessions are held on Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., and include Ward Central, Central, Northside and Westside elementary schools, both middle schools, French said. “At this time we have about 330 students participating.”

There is 90 minutes of instruction in literacy or math; the math groups spend 30 minutes in computer labs using various applications, French said.

Christmas Alliance coordinator Terena Woodruff reported that preparations are underway for this year’s holiday outreach to district families.

There are two outreaches - Christmas Alliance provides food while Christmas for Kids, coordinated by Bill Holden, takes care of toys, Woodruff said.

In 2011 there were more than 700 families served, Woodruff said. “This year we are looking to top that number, closer to 800,” she said.

Families must be residents of the Cabot School District, Woodruff said.

Tips given to administrators and principals, who bussed tables and the salad bar in two events held at Larry’s Pizza, raised much of the funds needed for the program Woodruff said.

This year’s food distribution will be held in the former Larry’s Pizza restaurant in the Southfork Shopping Center, Woodruff said. Food will be packaged Dec. 15; the toys will be sorted in the evenings of Dec. 17–21, with distribution Dec. 22, she said.

Evans, in his report on the Cabot Panther Foundation, said that the Foundation has purchased a scoreboard for the nearly completed baseball-softball complex and practice sessions have begun for participants in the “Dancing with Cabot Stars” fundraiser in March.

District health and fitness coordinator Kelly Spencer told of community classes planned for the remainder of the school year. She said the classes are an extension of the district-wide health and fitness initiative begun last year.

“I spoke to you last year about how this will create a culture change, to make the district more healthy,” Spencer said.

The sessions include: Suicide Awareness – Dec. 6; Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center – Jan. 15; Tobacco Cessation – Feb. 7; Cyber Bullying - March 26; and How to Prepare for Kindergarten, and Prescription Drug Abuse in April and May.

“We think this is a really good way to not only educate the community on some issues … but to reach out and involve the community in the culture change we are trying to create,” she said.

All classes are free and open to the community, Spencer said. The sessions will be held at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., at the Academic Center for Excellence, 21 Funtastic Drive, off Bill Foster Highway.

The board voted increase pay schedules on the recommendation of the Personnel and Policy Committee. The classified base pay rate will be increased 40 cents per hour, the base pay for bus drivers will be increased by $1.25 per day; the certified salary schedule will be increased by $1,000 added to the base for a 190-day contract.

The board also approved the legal transfer of a student from the Cabot School District to the Pulaski County Special School District, and to accept the administration’s recommendation for the expulsion of a student for the remainder of the school year.

The board approved contracting with First Security Bank for the district’s banking services, effective Jan. 1, 2013.

In recognitions, Thurman announced Madison Srebalus and Michelle Peck as the winners of the Art for Education contest sponsored by Downey Publishing, publishers of local phonebooks.

Junior High School North principal Roger Tonnessen presented Srebalus and Peck, saying that the winning artwork is used for the cover of the phonebook serving the Cabot, Jacksonville and Lonoke areas. Srebalus’ artwork was chosen for the cover, Peck’s artwork was chosen for inside cover.

There are 45,000 copies of the phonebook distributed in the area, Tonnessen said.

Srebalus was awarded $500, Peck $250 by Downey Publishing.

Col.(ret.) William Kehler was honored by the Cabot Panther Foundation for his support of Cabot schools, the community and the Foundation. Sarah Owen, representing the Foundation, presented a plaque to Kehler.

The Foundation chose this time to recognize Kehler because, after years of supporting the Cabot community and schools, he is moving to the Dallas area, Owen said.

“This is a sad time for our district,” Owen said.

Kehler said he and his wife have lived a third of their lives at Cabot. “I taught Junior ROTC for 13 years, and loved it,” he said.

Kehler said he is proud to be part of the national change allowing a high school JrROTC to be extended to junior high school campuses. “We were the first school in the U.S. to go out to the junior highs,” he said.

Backed by Thurman, he visited Washington, D.C., and convinced the Department of Defense to change the rule restricting the Junior ROTC program to one campus, Kehler said.

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