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Veterans, Common Core at school board meeting

Teacher rating system, construction and other issues were on the agenda of the March 18 meeting of the Cabot School District board of directors.

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

Tammy Tucker, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, told of the role of growth measurements in evaluations under the Teacher Excellence and Support System (TESS). TESS is part of Common Core, the curriculum to which Cabot School District is changing.

Teachers’ ratings are affected in two ways – they cannot be rated “distinguished” if their students do not reach growth targets, and if students do not reach growth targets for two, consecutive, years the teacher’s performance is lowered to “basic” even if the teacher is rated “proficient,” Tucker said.

The next lowest rating would be “unsatisfactory.” At that level, “There is an intensive growth plan that the teacher has to be on,” which includes conferences with the principal in two-week intervals, Tucker explained.

Teacher ratings will be on a scale of 1 to 4, with 3 being “very, very good,” and would the realistic long-term goal, Tucker said. The highest, a 4, would be “like a vacation home in Hawaii. It is a nice place to visit but most people don’t live there.”

The manner in which growth targets are applied, based on math and literacy proficiency, was explained at a recent meeting of the Wilbur Mills Education Co-Op, “It can be confusing,” Tucker said.

“We have some answers on growth; we have many answers yet to be discovered. But it is at least a starting point,” she said.

There remain “a great deal of questions” on how TESS will be applied, Tucker said.

Student performance scores will also affect the overall rating of the school, itself, Tucker said.

Tucker said the teacher ratings would be included on the school “report card” with the number holding each rating.

Thurman said the system would be for the school to be given a grade, A through D, which promises to be another source of confusion for the community.

“If the system is done with fidelity, there won’t be many teachers with a rating of 4,” he said.

In the buildings and grounds report, deputy superintendent Harold Jeffcoat reviewed construction progress at the Freshman Academy. “I think I would give our construction crew a grade of ‘distinguished’ for what they have accomplished over the winter,” the main building is about 98 percent complete, he said.

Most of the work remaining to be done is interior, Jeffcoat said. All sidewalks are complete, the gym floor is installed with sanding to begin in a week, window and doorway trim has been installed. The walk-in refrigeration for the kitchen has been installed; the remainder of the cooking equipment is set to be installed April 1.

Much of the painting and millwork has been done; bleachers have been delivered and will be installed that week, Jeffcoat said.

The main building is to be cleaned, and the career and tech building has been “punched” once with a few items to be corrected, he said. Plans are underway to begin moving in the equipment.

Sod is being laid as the weather allows; “Things are progressing at a fast rate,” Jeffcoat said.

The Freshman Academy is to be open beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

Nash told of the ASBA School Law Seminar she attended with Jeffcoat and fellow board member Brian Evans.

Nash said a number of changes in addition to those under the Affordable Care Act would soon be affecting district operations.

The seven standards of the Educator’s Code of Ethics were reviewed; so far this year the state has seen 123 allegations of violations, Nash said. “I thought I had written the number down wrong … but I went back and checked and that was right,” she remarked.

Under the new law regarding veterans, “Veterans who apply for a teaching position or a job in public schools are to be given preference in hiring … as long as they meet the qualifications. They can’t be given preference only because they are veterans,” she said.

Also, the spouse of a dead veteran, “Just steps into the veteran’s shoes and is awarded all the privileges of the veteran, as long as they don’t remarry,” Nash said.

Reporting on the Cabot Panther Foundation, Evans said My Daughter’s Heart, a father-daughter dance sponsored by the Foundation, had been “an overwhelming success.” There were 1,223 tickets sold for the dance, “And they were all there,” he said. The dance raised more than $11,000, “And every penny of that is going back into our district,” he said.

The Foundation is considering doubling the number of $1,000 scholarships to be awarded this year, Evans said.

Also, the Foundation approved buying championship rings for the men’s bowling team.

The Foundation golf tournament is scheduled for May 5 at Rolling Hills Golf Course, Evans said.

Jeffcoat reviewed the proposed calendar for 2014-15 school year. Snow days have been built in between January and the end of spring break, he said.

“We don’t want to be caught in the same situation like we did this year,” Jeffcoat said. Other changes included the structure of each quarter to keep 40 days, and no more than 50 days.

Board members approved the School Calendar for 2014-15.

The board members voted to accept the superintendent’s recommended expulsion of two students for the remainder of the school year.

In recognitions, Ashley Tarvin, high school theatre and stagecraft teacher, presented students who took part in the Arkansas State Thespian Festival and told of the awards won by the students in their production of Carrie, the Musical, that addressed bullying.

Superior rating was given to Savannah Woods, Jeni Fuller, Charl Young, Anna Kay Everett, Tori Willison, McKenzie Marks, Ashley Martin, Ben Brockinton, Josh Glason, Tanner Johnson, JP Gairhan, Kolby Cole, Riley Hoffer, Zoe Eddington, Autumn Romines, and Judith Beckham.

Duet Musical – Superior - Jeni Fuller and Josh Glason

Duet Musical - Excellent and Superior - Charl Young and Kolby Cole Ben Brockinton and Anna Kay Everett.

Solo Musical - Superior - Judith Beckham Jeni Fuller

Solo Musical - Excellent and Superior - Kolby Cole

Solo Acting - Superior - Savannah Woods, Riley Hoffer.

Best of Show in Acting - Riley Hoffer.

Duet Acting – Excellent - Autumn Romines and Blain Mahoney.

Costume Construction – Superior - McKenzie Marks.

Publicity - Superior - Tanner Johnson.

Best of Show in Publicity - Tanner Johnson

Group Acting Category - Excellent - Saralyn Helstern, Cally Males, Rhiannon Epley.

Michelle French presented the Spelling Bee winners who won the district spelling bee and represented Cabot in the Lonoke County Spelling Bee.

The top three winners of the Lonoke County Spelling Bee were from Cabot.

Top 6 District Winners: Bradley Hale Tanner James Ethan Peck Kaleb Webb Brock Williams Eden Young

Lonoke County Spelling Bee Winners: 1st - Brock Williams 2nd - Bradley Hale 3rd - Tanner James

Michele Evans told of the award presented, by Arkansas Association of Alternative Educators, to the Cabot Academic Center of Excellence for the Alternative Learning Environment (ALE) program; Evans and a group of students accepted the award in a presentation on the floor of the state Senate. Evans said the students are a cross-section of the varying needs, physical or learning, met at ACE. There are now 203 students enrolled at ACE, she said.

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