GRAVETTE — Members of the Gravette School Board were honored at their regular meeting on January 17th.

Superintendent Maribel Childress presented certificates to all council members. Board secretary Heather Finley received a plaque recognizing her as a senior board member, meaning she completed 50 hours of school board member development training.

January is Arkansas School Board Appreciation Month.

Drama teacher Justin Garton has asked permission for students to attend Arkansas State’s Thespians Festival in Jonesboro. After a brief discussion, board members voted to approve funding and travel for five students to attend the festival with funding from the general operating fund.

Leonard Garrett of Sulfur Springs also addressed the board and expressed his desire to start carpentry courses at the career center. Garrett is a retired military officer and former teacher who said he would like to share his skills with students. Childress said she informed the Northwest Technical Institute of Garrett’s desire and qualifications.

Business manager Dennis Kurczek said $552,000 in local tax revenue was received last month.

Shannon Mitchell, High School Principal, reviewed the High School Semester Exam Exemption Policy. She said students who have a good attendance record, have at least a C average and no zeros in any class are allowed to be excused from taking their semester exams. She said it helps give students a positive incentive to do well in their classes and helps boost student engagement scores.

Nikki Brecheen, Principal of Glenn Duffy Elementary School, reported on the progress of training Tilly, a potential therapy dog. She said Tilly had finished school and would take a test on Saturday.

Childress said the district school board electoral areas were approved as submitted.

She also submitted the board member training report, showing that all members have exceeded the required number of hours of training.

Childress presented the fall semester discipline report, along with information from previous semesters for comparison. The report showed a slight increase in disciplinary infractions from last year, but building superintendents present said this was partly due to the fact that there were 125 more students this year as 25 % of students attended virtually last year.

In response to a question from board member Hope Duke, the directors agreed that their attempts to restore traditional discipline had paid off. Being more consistent in applying rules and being quick in administering discipline were contributing factors, they said.

Brecheen and Mandy Barrett, Principal of Glenn Duffy Elementary School, provided an update on standards-based grading and the results of a parent survey regarding grading. In response to a request from Duke, Childress said administrators would be willing to work on a compromise between those who preferred traditional grading and those who embraced standards-based grading.

Childress provided an update on Brandon Burlsworth’s recognition project and the plaques set to be displayed at Lion Field’s concession stand indicating the land was used in the film honoring his life. She presented a mock-up of the proposed plate designs and a cost breakdown.

Board member Jay Oliphant said he liked the designs on offer. Oliphant said he liked the Burlsworth project because it builds good character and suggested that after the plaques are installed, the Burlsworth family and past Burlsworth Award winners be invited to a dedication ceremony.

Member Robyn Skaggs expressed concerns about how the weather will affect the poster. Childress said she would speak with Clay McGill, principal architect at BiLD Architects, about the council’s concerns and bring design options for further discussion at the February council meeting.

Childress provided an update on land acquisition for the properties located on North Mount Pleasant Road and Stagecoach Road. She presented a copy of the tenancy agreement with a farmer who grazes cattle on the North Mount Pleasant Road property. She said he has already paid his rent for this year and pointed out that the agreement can be changed by either party if desired. She said an environmental study has begun on the Stagecoach Road property and the pond and three buildings that are on that property.

Childress presented the December Attendance Report and Enrollment Report, showing that enrollment increased by six students from December to January.

Childress distributed computer class information showing that beginning in the ninth grade class of 2022-2023, each student will need to earn credit in a computer science class or a high school computer science class to earn their degree and, beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, every public high school in Arkansas will be required to employ at least one certified high school computer science teacher. Childress said that would require an additional high school classroom.

Board members reviewed renewing current procedures for Certified School Safety Officers. They voted unanimously to approve the initial training of five new officers at a cost not exceeding $12,000 and paid for from the general fund. They also voted unanimously to approve sending four officers on three-day gunnery training at a cost not to exceed $3,500 and paid from the general fund.

Council members voted to approve the 2022-2023 school calendar. A report showed that 80% of parents surveyed preferred to start the school year on a Monday rather than a Wednesday.

Members voted unanimously to deny a 10th grader’s request to transfer to the district from the Bentonville School District.

Members traveled in executive session to discuss employment and personnel and conduct the annual superintendent review. When they returned to open session, the board voted to hire Samantha Luther as the social studies teacher and head softball coach at Gravette High School and to hire Whitley Holland and Sheila Patton in the infant nutrition department.