Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

TOP STORY >> Bonds will fund schools in Cabot

By SARA GREENE
Leader staff writer

It was a busy evening for the Cabot School Board on Tuesday, when it approved getting a $6 million bond loan, returned a second recess to the schedule of elementary students, swore in a new member and reorganized the board.

The board approved $6 million in second-lien bonds, a type of loan, to help complete current and future construction projects. Stephens Inc., the financial agent for the Cabot School District, will coordinate the sale of the bonds to inv-estment companies early next year.

Depending on federal in-terest rates when the bonds are issued, the district’s repayment schedule is expected to be between $395,000 and $400,000 per year beginning in 2007. The $6 million, plus interest, should be paid in full by 2032.

The district is receiving $1.4 million, nearly all of the $1.5 million it requested, to proceed with immediate facilities improvements from the Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation Commission.

“It was a very extensive process to go through,” said Cabot School District superintendent Dr. Frank Holman.
“We asked for $1.5 (million) and got $1.4 (million) so it was good for us. We got nearly everything we asked for.”
The money will be used to replace roofs at Cabot Middle School South, Ward Central Elementary and Champs Hall, the multipurpose building at Cabot High School. The state chose not to give the district money to remove asbestos from buildings “C” and “D” on the high school campus before they are demolished next year.

Cabot was among 142 districts across the state seeking a share of $20 million authorized by the legislature for emergency facilities improvements. Under rules established by lawmakers, the state can transfer funds to pay for the additional $14.7 million needed to pay for the state’s portion of the facilities improvements, creating a fund of $34.7 million for the districts. Altogether, districts sought $73 million for projects from the commission.

Over the summer, teams of architects and engineers went statewide to examine the buildings of the districts requesting the immediate-needs funding. The teams checked the repairs listed on the funding applications against the deficiencies listed in the facilities study conducted last year by the Arkansas Task Force to Joint Com-mittee on Educational Facilities.

The next wave of state funding is called transition funding. It will help districts fund construction started between Jan. 2005 and June 2006.
“We feel like we’ll probably qualify for $6 million dollars,” Holman said.

In other business, the board voted to reinstate a second 20-minute recess at the elementary schools throughout the district. The recess was removed from the schedule by the administration to meet a state mandate of six hours of instruction each day. Terry Donham, a kindergarten teacher and member of the Personnel Policy Committee, read a letter to the board from the teachers in the district, asking for the recess back. During last month’s board meeting, several disgruntled parents asked the board to return the second recess.

“Our students are finding that the school day is physically uncomfortable due to the extended period in the classroom with no break,” Donham said. She added students are having trouble focusing and additional recess would not impede the six hours of instructional time.
Additionally, the teachers are requesting the board hire aides for each school to help teachers with the various duties such as morning and afternoon bus duty and lunch and recess duty.

“Some teachers are being assi-gned more than the 60 minutes of duty per week as mandated by law,” Donham said.
After some discussion, the board voted to reinstate the second 20-minute recess. The board tabled discussing hiring additional aides for the November meeting.

Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman gave the oath of office to the newest board member, Wendel Msall. Msall was elected to the board during the September school board election.

He replaces Steve Blackwood, a five-year veteran of the board. Immediately after the swearing-in of Msall, school board president Jim Coy nominated board member David Hipp to serve as the new board president, Dr. Brenda Thielemier to serve as the board’s vice-president and Brooks Nash to serve as the secretary/treasurer.

The board members usually rotate officers every year just after the fall school-board elections.
The board unanimously app-roved the change. Coy and Hipp immediately exchanged seats so Hipp could preside over the rest of the meeting.

“This is my fifth year to be on the board,” Hipp said. He has served as secretary/treasurer and served as vice president.
“I like the thought of keeping the meetings going quickly, but there’s times when you have to discuss things — that’s just the way it is,” Hipp said.

In a brief recognition ceremony, assistant superintendent Jim Dalton and Donna Whiting, director of the district’s gifted and talented program were presented Administra-tors of the Year Awards from the Arkansas State Communication Association. The association is comprised of speech, theater, forensics, and debate teachers across the state.

“Donna and Mr. Dalton have been such inspirational motivators,” said Jane Balgavy, director of forensics, theater and debate for the district. “As administrators, they’ve helped us so much securing different things for the facilities and theater and allowing us to travel to (debate) tournaments.”

The board also received a presentation on the district’s Pinnacle Internet Viewer software, which is available to parents, teachers, and students on the district’s Web site. As teachers and administrators enter in student information such as class schedules, attendance, tardiness and grades, the data is automatically in the program.

This information is then available to parents and students to view at any time. Unique log-ins and passwords, in addition to other security features, keeps student’s information secure for teachers, parents and students only. Parents can sign up for an e-mail notification if their child misses a class or if grades drop below a certain percentage.