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School to improve telephone infrastructure

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NASHVILLE – The school’s board of education approved major upgrades to the district’s telephone infrastructure Monday during the group’s regular monthly meeting.
Discussion on the subject arose following a presentation by technology coordinator Bryce Petty, who told board members that the existing system is over 20 years old, many of its features are no longer functioning and efforts to keep it operational have been hampered by a lack of replacement parts.
“Replacement is all but not an option, basically,” Petty said. “We have robbed Peter a lot and there’s not many Peter’s left.”
Superintendent Doug Graham said issues with the phones are further compounded by a gradual reduction in long distance rate reimbursements from the Federal Communication Commission’s E-Rate program set to begin next year. According to Graham, E-Rate has been covering 80 percent of those costs – about $14,000 annually – but will begin 20 percent reductions to that amount each year until the reimbursements are eventually done away with.
Petty’s proposed solution to both dilemmas involved upgrading to a voice over internet protocol system which would use the school’s existing computer network to provide telephone connectivity and replace the traditional call rate structure with a total number of minutes to be used each month similar to most cell phone plans. He reported having solicited proposals for the service from AT&T and Batesville-based communications firm White River Services, the latter of which offered more services and better support at a lower cost, according to Petty.
Board members voted unanimously in favor of the $20,980 White River bid, turning down a $38,687 proposal from AT&T.
In other business, the board:
• voted unanimously to accept a $62,309.01 bid on property, structure and material insurance from the Arkansas School Board Association.
• approved budget projections for the the 2016-17 school year listing $8,075,800 in salary expenditures, $4 million in instructional expense, $1,602,000 in maintenance costs, $900,000 in transportation expenditures, $2 million in other operating expenses, $800,000 in bonded debt payments and $1 million in building fund expenses.
• voted unanimously to hire a slate of summer workers at a rate of $30 per hour for teachers and $7.50 per hour for laborers.
• accepted the resignations of junior high counselor Deb Wallis, junior high English teacher Holli Boyett and bus driver Stephen Wakefield.
• held an hour and five minute executive session after which they voted to hire Beverly Tedford as a junior high counselor, Lauren Volarvich as a junior high English teacher, Autumn Reeder as an elementary teacher, Phylicia Chesshir as a primary special education instructor, Allyson Tollett as a part time math teacher, and Wendy Kincade and Shelby Witherspoon as registered nurses at a rate of $20 per hour.