Christmas in November for full-time employees of the school district

Christmas will come early for some employees of the Vilonia School District.

A recommendation by Dr. David Stephens, district superintendent, the board, Monday night, approved a Christmas bonus of $300 for full time employees and $150 for bus drives to be paid November 15.

In other business:

--Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker presented the county’s plan for building an asphalt road, 3/8 miles long and 30 ft. wide, from Coker Road to Frank Mitchell Intermediate School. The winning bid was from DKM to prepare the road base for paving to be done by the Rogers Group, Baker said. The project will take about six months with work beginning soon, he added. When the road is built, Baker said, the school district will be obligated to build fencing.

--Assistant superintendent Cathy Riggins addressed student achievement in the district and presented an overview of Vilonia students’ scores compared to state averages. She also presented the ACT/Aspire test results.  The Vilonia district, she said, is above the state average but it is not “where we want it to be.”

We can’t just sit back and look at what we did compared to the state, Riggins said. Currently, she said, teachers and staff are looking at strengths and weaknesses and developing plans to be better. They are striving, she said, to be ranked in the top five school districts statewide.

“We must look individually at the kids,” she said, to achieve the goal. She also elaborated on the school’s move to implement a standards based curriculum.

--A demonstration by a couple of web hosting employees, representing the company Apptegy, the board approved terminating the district’s current services and entering into a three-year contract for web hosting with Apptegy  at a cost of $44,800. Mark Lienhart of Apptegy, told the board his company’s mission is to “share the story of every student in America.” The new website will provide more opportunities for sharing “good stories” and will be a vehicle to get information to the public in a timelier manner, Lienhart added.   Making the change, Stephens said, will increase the cost of web hosting to the district about $3,500 a year.  The company is based in Little Rock. Stephens recommended the change saying he believes it will enhance communications with parents and also better market the district.  Apptegy is to provide their Thrillshare application, which they say, will allow a single system to push notifications across any and all platforms (phone, email, text, etc.).  Application setup cost is $11,800.  The annual service cost is $12,180.  The total annual cost is $23,980.  The cost of the current services to the district is about $10,000 annually, Stephens said.

--The board approved the purchase of diesel from Green and Chapman at a cost of $11,646.86 or $1.573 per gallon.

--Approved the purchase of a 77-passenger bus from Summit Bus Sales in Conway at a cost of $84,889.

--The board approved the purchase of book room materials to be used at the elementary at a maximum cost of $10,500

--An annual requirement, the board approved a statement of assurance documenting the district’s compliance with the Arkansas Department of Education and state regulations.

--Teacher Showcase. Primary teachers Melissa Gasaway, Jeanne Harvey and Ashley Outlaw presented an overview of recent activity with first graders referred to as a Reading Celebration. Parents and grandparents are invited to the first grade rooms where students read stories they wrote with the parents helping with the grading.  Parents will be able to watch as their children improve their writing skills with three celebrations per year.

--Stephens as well as board members touted the praises of Scott Newell, who will be retiring from the board after 10 years of service. Stephens presented him with a plaque. In turn, Newell praised his peers. He referred to the district as strong and predicted it will continue to thrive because, he said, the board works as a “cohesive unit” making sure student welfare is put first. Dr. Gina McNew will fill the position.

A short executive session, the board approved the hiring of Heather Rash as a food service worker and Aaron Jackson as a substitute bus driver.

The November board meeting will be held Monday, November 7. The annual Report to the Public will begin at 6 p.m. with the board meeting to follow.