Home Breaking News Howard County Back to School Preview

Howard County Back to School Preview

4984
0
Nashville High School
Nashville Superintendent Dough Graham
Nashville Superintendent Doug Graham

‘Get Your Mind Right’ for challenges of year

By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

When Nashville Superintendent Doug Graham was making his choice for Song of the Year to present to the district’s faculty, three selections came to mind. Graham listened to them and thought about them, then made his pic.

Second runner-up – “Moving on Up,” the theme from “The Jeffersons.”

First runner-up – Olympics theme song in honor of the 2016 games.

Song of the Year for back-to-school time – “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten.

The reason? The song sums up Graham’s message for the year – “Get your mind right for the challenges of 2016-17. He played the song Tuesday morning during his address to the district’s faculty and staff.

Graham has taken the challenges personally and has made it clear what his major goal is. “The priority from my office to our campuses is to refocus on the ACT Aspire” test, he said. “After a two-year reprieve, it will be a priority to refocus on test scores. We have lots of good things to sell about our school, but without adequate test scores, nothing else matters.`

“For two years, we let testing play out on the back burner. The state was changing tests every time we turned around” to the tune of three different tests in three years.

“”Now with ACT Aspire, we have a fair assessment. We have medians to compare scores with like districts. Aspire will be here a few years,” Graham said.

“We’re going to evaluate and see if we’re making the proper adjustments. I’ve made it a priority at each level – more emphasis and concentration” on student achievement on the Aspire.

When the spring 2016 test scores arrived, “There were some we were excited about. There are obviously the ones we identified that I consider low-hanging fruit.”

The lowest scores statewide were on the writing test, Graham said. “It was graded at a higher level than other areas.” (See related story with Assistant Superintendent Joe Kell, page 2B.)

“Each building has been challenged to come up with a plan to address student achievement. When we get all four plans implemented, we’re hoping for good things in the spring” during state testing.

Other areas have also received Graham’s attention, including facilities. “We’ll have the groundbreaking for the new classrooms at primary soon after four school starts; I hope it will be by Sept. 1. This will be a welcome addition to the primary building.”

The project includes two new rooms and will cost $450,000, with the state paying 54 percent.

Nashville High School will have a new roof this fall, “hopefully within the next few days,” Graham said. Workers are finishing the $550,000 project this week in preparation for opening day Aug. 15.

“That will be three roofs in the district all new, less than 18 months old,” Graham said. They include high school, junior high and elementary. “We’re in better shape than we’ve been in in a long time.”

The high school roof is tapered, allowing water to drain into gutters and leaving less weight on the roof.

Improvements at Scrapper Stadium are nearly done. “The turf is complete and in use. The visitors side is finished except the press box. It should be here by the first of September. Siding will be installed along the front of the visitors side. It will mirror the home stands. The bandstand will be a welcome addition. It should be done in the next couple of weeks.”

Graham said he is “looking forward to the Scrapper Cafe” joining the NHS cafeteria. “I’m not sure when it will open. It will be a neat addition to NHS and the district. I hope that early in the fall we’ll have it up and running.”

The athletic department has had “good interest in our first-ever soccer program. We’re talking to prospective coaches and hope to have them finalized at the August board meeting” on Monday.

Faculty turnover has been low, Graham said. “We won’t break in many new Scrappers.”

The food services program has been outsourced to Aramark. “We’re excited about the upside of a food company coming in. The kids will see a noticeable difference in the number of selections on a daily basis. Parents need to be prepared. Kids may want more lunch money for a la cart items.”

The district is “really proud to provide school supplies for grades K-6. This was a budget item that the board made priority. We’re happy to provide parents a little relief at the start of school,” Graham said.

About 1,925 students are expected in the district, according to Graham. The three-quarter average for last year was 1,912.

Food Services Director Julie Smith
Food Services Director Julie Smith

More options offered to students in Nashville by food services program

By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

When students report Aug. 15 for opening day in the Nashville School District, they’ll find that one of the biggest changes won’t be in their classrooms but in the cafeteria.

The district has partnered with Aramark to outsource the food services program. The result will be more menu offerings, greater purchasing power for food and supplies, and better marketing, according to Julie Smith, food services director for the Nashville schools.

Smith came to Nashville last year from Durant, Okla., schools, where she spent 15 years as assistant food services director. Durant utilized outsourcing, so “this is what I’m used to,” Smith said.

The arrangement is “a partnership between the Nashville School District and Aramark. Food services will still be the responsibility of the district where state and federal regulations are concerned,” according to Smith.

Stacy Adams, food services director for Aramark, and Smith “work together to make sure we serve healthy, nutritious meals and are financially sound.”

Aramark “brings in experience, short cuts, better ways to do things. They have the resources to get new equipment and save money on food costs. They buy supplies through volume discounts,” Smith said.

Each campus will see differences in food services, with high school perhaps having the most noticeable changes.

The new cafeteria opened in the spring semester last year and was designed to accommodate an expanded meal program.

NHS students will have up to seven lunch options, Smith said. The cafeteria will be decorated to promote the wider range of choices. “At high school, marketing is the big difference. Aramark brought in professional posters and started marketing the choices.”

Options will include homemade pizza, a grill offering burgers, chicken sandwiches, chicken strips and other items, traditional home cooked meals, a tortilla  line and a deli line “similar to Subway,” Smith said.

“The kids really enjoy it,” Adams said of the deli offering.

Staff members will wear uniforms across the district, according to Adams. “We’ll have increased customer service relations.”

The program will “stay within K-12 guidelines,” Smith said.

The location of serving areas likely will change during the year. “Our goal is to bring our serving lines into one spot like a food court,” according to Smith.

At junior high, students will have four choices, compared to three in the past. They include homemade pizza, tortilla bar, grill option and home cooking line.

The elementary school cafeteria will be brightly colored with “Ace the Fox” as the mascot. “They’ll have a ‘Cool Caf’ theme,” Smith said.

Primary and elementary will have two choices on the menu.

“We’ll have better presentation at every campus,” Smith said. “We’ll present food in a way to make kids want to eat it.”

On all campuses, students will be able to choose what they want to take and decline others.

For breakfast, there will be two options for primary and elementary, two or three at junior high and five or six at high school. “We’ll expand” as the year goes on,” Smith said. “We’ll try to incorporate new things at semester.”

Promotions will be offered throughout the year, including two weeks a month at high school and junior high.

Taste sampling will be offered on all campuses, along with “healthy for life” resources for students and parents, according to Smith.

Aramark will offer other services as well. “We’re partnering with the school on the Scrapper Cafe at high school. It’s going to be really neat,” Smith said. The cafe will open early in the year.

Aramark is one of the sponsors for the new artificial turf at Scrapper Stadium and has a donor block on the field.

The company gave the district a grill “customized in Scrapper colors.”

While there are lots of changes in the district’s food services program, one thing will remain the same. “We’ll still have Scrapper Cookies” each Friday, Smith said.

Amy Westfall with former student Breana Amonette 1
Amy Westfall, the new career coach at Nashville High School, visits recent graduate Breana Amonette. Westfall will work with students on their post-high school plans.

Life after NHS graduation to be career coach’s focus

By Alli Davis
News-Leader Staff

With 14 years of kindergarten through 12th grade counseling under her belt, Amy Westfall starts anew at Nashville High this fall with plans to better prepare students for life after graduation.

Studying at Henderson State University, Westfall obtained her bachelor’s degree and then her master’s degree. She has worked with schools in the area including Murfreesboro and Kirby, but, for the past two years, she has been helping her family on their farm.

Westfall’s objective for her first year is to increase student awareness of different careers that are available in the community and surrounding communities, even occupations that can take them around the world.

“My previous experience as a high school counselor didn’t allow me the time that I wanted to work with students and when this position became available I thought this fits me, this is perfect, I’d get time with the students,” Westfall said.

Westfall is employed through Cossatot Community College, but will keep school district hours and holidays as a counselor for grades 7 through 12.

“As people get accustomed to me being here, I want to have our students more prepared, more independent, and able to complete an application. I know that sounds silly, but they’re not used to filling out their own forms,” Westfall said.

She added that she plans to work on bringing up the enrollment of Nashville graduates in college and helping students take concurrent classes in order to get a head start on their future.

Director of athletics, transportation, and facilities and maintenance James "Bunch" Nichols
Director of athletics, transportation, and facilities and maintenance James “Bunch” Nichols

Multi-tasking
Buses, sports, facilities keep director on the go

By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

From implementing a new soccer program to making sure that buses are ready to roll and buildings are ready to open, the summer has been a hectic time for James “Bunch” Nichols, the Nashville School District’s director of maintenance and facilities, transportation, and athletics.

Maintenance

In maintenance and facilities, “It’s been a typical summer,” Nichols said. “As the district has increased in size, there’s more to wax and more to clean.”

Floor crews spent the summer making sure that buildings were cleaned, waxed and prepared for Aug. 15. Jeremy Lofton and Coach Brian “Boomer” Brown headed up the floor crew, with help from NHS seniors Garrett Gordon and Kirby Adcock and recent graduate Ashton Nelson.

The maintenance crew of Jeremy Busby and Jeff Westfall took care of countless duties, including changing air conditioner filters and making sure the air conditioners are working. “Each building adds up quickly” with the number of units and filters,” Nichols said.

Tony Horn, Jacob Teague and Coach A.J. Whitmore were in charge of mowing, a task which required more time following recent rains.

Sometimes Nichols’ duties intersect, with the installation of artificial turf at Scrapper Stadium as an example. “Facilities-wise, the turf was the big thing. Symmetry Turf did a great job. People from out in the community came to watch them lay down the turf. People came at certain times every day to see what was going on. Symmetry did a really nice job,” the facilities and athletic director said.

Nichols noted that the turf “would not be possible without donations.” The district received $675,000 in contributions from 10 donors to fund the turf at no cost to the local schools.

As the turf installation wound down, crews constructed new bleachers on the visitors side at the stadium. “This is a major upgrade. We have more seating and a nice place to watch a game. The first row is on the same level as the home side,” Nichols said. “This is a nice addition for football, track and soccer.”

A press box will be added on the visitors side. “It will free up some room on the home side,” Nichols said.

“I’m grateful for the facilities we have,” Nichols said, including Scrapper Arena, which has received extensive use including summer team camps for basketball. “We’re still getting compliments on it.”

Transportation

In transportation, work at the stadium led to the relocation of the district’s bus fleet from the bus lot and garage adjacent to the stadium across the street to the primary school parking lot.

“We ran buses through the summer” for different activities, Nichols said. “They have to be ready to go.”

Nichols will be at primary school Aug. 11 during Meet the Teacher Day to answer questions from parents about bus route. Parents may also contact campus offices or the administration building with questions.

“We want to get students to school and get them home in the safest manner possible. To quote Johnny Wilson, ‘We’re carrying the most precious cargo on earth, our children,'” Nichols said.

Athletics

For Nichols, “Athletics flew by last year. We had a lot of good showings. Who’d have thought we’ due 15-0 in football. We’re back now. Our goal every year is to be in Little Rock and win state. Some years we make it; some we don’t. Call it pressure. Call it what you want. We call it the Scrapper way.”

The first season on the athletic schedule will open shortly with tennis and golf. Coach Damon Williams and Coach Aaron Worthen do a great job with those athletes,” Nichols said.

In football, “We’re counting it down. The junior high team hasn’t lost in forever. We want them to win every game they can,” Nichols said.

At the high school level, “A lot of schools in the conference are picked to make some noise,” including the Scrappers, whom Hooten’s Arkansas Football picked to repeat as District 7-4A and Class 4A state champions.

In basketball, Coach Ron Alexander and Coach Laura Kidd took their junior high and high school Scrapperettes to summer team camps. “We’re expecting big things,” Nichols said.

On the boys side, Williams and Worthen took their teams to basketball camps.

Coach Rick Baker’s Scrapper track team “is always in the top 5 in the state. Coach Alexander will have the girls team ready to go.”

Softball and baseball “will be really competitive. Both have a lot of returners and expect to be at state,” Nichols said. “We’ll bid on state baseball and state softball” for the opening rounds through the semifinals.

“We want to be at Fayetteville” for the state finals, Nichols said.

Nashville will field its first-ever boys and girls soccer teams during the spring semester. “We have a lot of kids who want to play soccer. When we were raising the money for turf, soccer was one of the points we mentioned. There’s a lot of excitement,” Nichols said.

An early glimpse of Nashville’s soccer conference includes Central Arkansas Christian, Arkansas Prep, Gurdon, Cossatot River, Arkadelphia, Malvern, Maumelle and Mena, Nichols said. The top four teams will qualify for state.

“We look forward to it,” Nichols said of soccer. “I think it will be a good thing.”

Assistant Superintendent Joe Kell
Assistant Superintendent Joe Kell

District reviews Aspire data, makes plans to improve on state testing program

By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

“It’s a busy time of year.”

That’s how Nashville Assistant Superintendent Joe Kell describes the days leading up to the opening of school Aug. 15. “The teachers are here. We’re getting ready for the kids to show up.”

Teachers and administrators at each campus have been meeting, according to Kell. Teachers have been working by grade level and subject level.

“I’m looking forward to another good school year. Every year goes by a little bit faster,” Kell said.

Kell has been reviewing scores on the ACT Aspire test which the state administered last spring. “I’m getting information out to teachers. I’ll meet with them [today] to go over scores.”

Students in grades 3-10 took the Aspire test. High school juniors and seniors continue to use the regular ACT as a college entrance exam.

Each building is looking at Aspire scores individually “to try to identify weak areas and give extra help.”

Writing scores were low statewide, according to Kell. “That’s something to work on that’s identifiable and correctable.”

Writing was judged at four levels based on Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, Kell said. “Level 1 is the easiest, recall. Level 2 is skill and concept. Level 3 is strategic thinking, and Level 4 is extended thinking.”

From 30-40 percent of the grammar section of Aspire was tested at Level 3 or higher, Kell said. In contrast, 100 percent of the writing section was tested at level 3 or higher.

“None of us knew that. We’ve been wondering why the scores were so low statewide. Now we can prepare for that level. In our writing practice, we can move into those levels of questions,” Kell said.

“All teachers will work on writing,” not just English teachers, Kell said. “The rigor of the writing prompts will go up. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Teachers will utilize their curriculum frameworks as they prepare their lesson plans and as they work with students on the Aspire.

“The frameworks tell what to teach. We use them as our guide for instruction,” Kell said.

Science teachers received new frameworks for the 2016-17 academic year.

The state switched to Aspire last year after using PARCC test the previous year and the Arkansas Benchmarks before that. “It’s a good thing where we’re going with Aspire,” Kell said. “I hope the state stays with it a while. It makes sense.”

Students will take the actual ACT for college entrance, Kell said. “If we use the ACT, it makes sense for other grades to take Aspire.”

Aspire took less time away from classroom instruction than PARCC required. “The testing format took about half the time of PARCC and the Benchmarks. That was good,” Kell said.

The older tests took about one week per grade to administer. “By Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, the kids were tired of it. That leads to poor scores.”

Aspire takes about 4 1/2 hours to administer. “That’s refreshing to teachers and principals. It takes less time,” Kell said.

As teachers review the scores and plan for the new year, Kell said that the curriculum frameworks “drive our instruction. The test scores will take care of themselves.”

Along with coordinating the district’s testing program, Kell is also in charge of federal programs.

“Right now, we’re working on our budget for more than $2 million in state in federal funds. We use it for extra teachers, professional development, supplies, materials” and other instructional needs.

“We’re not through quite yet, but we’re chipping away at it,” he said.

Assistant Principal Kim Slayton
Assistant Principal Kim Slayton
High School Principal Tate Gordon
High School Principal Tate Gordon

Construction wrapping up at Nashville High School as academic year begins

By Alli Davis
News-Leader staff

As a new school year begins in the Nashville School District, students, teachers, and administration prepare for the first day of school and the days that will follow with a magical theme.

Nashville High School is finishing out the construction phases which include replacing the drainage ditches between the main building and FFA building, completing the new artificial turf field and visitor side bleachers, and adding on a set of bandstands at the far end of the field. The roof of the high school has also been under construction to be replaced before school starts.

In high school’s CTE courses, there has been a career 101 class added to the mix. There has been a big push by the state for schools to offer the class. Students will learn softer skills, like interviewing and being interviewed, that businesses and employers say students do not have.

A new media course will also be offered called Scrapper Media. Students will work on technological projects district wide like live streaming events chosen by the district, advertising for the district, and running the arena’s jumbo board with video for different groups and organizations.

“We’ve added more technology over the years, and this class will prep students for it during school instead of having to do it outside of school,” Principal Tate Gordon said.

A third class has been added to extend the marketing class that was implemented last year called Small Business Operations. The students in this class will run the new Scrapper Café once it is running. They will learn to run a small business from the ground up, make transactions, keep the books and file the taxes.

Lacy Britt will take over the accounting classes that will now be strictly digital and online.

In the sports department, the district has added a soccer team to the number of sports offered at the high school. The search is underway for someone already on staff to coach a boys team and a girls team, which will be announced closer to soccer season.

“We are excited about soccer for those students that want to participate and play. We are currently making preparations for purchasing equipment,” Gordon added.

The high school has also taken on five new staff members including Mindy Brinkman in the math department, Stephanie Davis in the business department, Amy Westfall as a career coach employed by Cossatot, secretary Melinda Noel and Theresa Flowers as a second health counselor employed by Riverview Health.

This year will also focus around the preliminary test scores from the first year of administering the ACT Aspire and highlight students’ high areas and low areas in order to work hard to improve the low areas, according to Gordon.

NJHS Assistant Principal Jason Williamson, Principal Deb Tackett
NJHS Assistant Principal Jason Williamson, Principal Deb Tackett

NJHS teachers attend workshops as they prepare for upcoming year

By Alli Davis
News-Leader Staff

This year at the ‘All-American’ Nashville junior high school, 445 students will continue on their path to high school with two new teachers helping them along.

Wade Matlock will take over a position in the science department and Aubrey Basiliere will be working with the special education students.

With the second year of the ACT Aspire upon the district, Principal Deb Tackett expressed excitement from herself and the teachers in being able to prepare for the next round of testing knowing where students are the strongest and the weakest.

Tackett also talked about the professional development workshops that faculty members and how they are ready to get back in the classroom using the strategies and instructional techniques from the workshops to guide the students through the coming year.

Science teacher Brenda Galliher attended a STEM conference during late July in Denver, Colorado. She was one of the four finalists for teacher of the year and with that recognition came other opportunities like becoming teacher champion for Collaboration of Student Success. In the fall, she will attend a similar conference in Washington D.C. for a coming together of teacher champions to meet and collaborate on ways to improve student success.

The junior high also continues to hold their open door policy that allows parents to come talk to the principal, vice principal, and counselors about any concerns they may have.

“We think it is very important that students get involved in extra-curricular clubs, like science club, math club, FCCLA, and FBLA. Students achieve and do better in those environments,” Tackett added.

Students will also get a taste of changes at lunch time with a new menu and ideas that come with the out sourcing of the cafeteria.

Principal Latito Williams, Assitant Principal Rick Rebsamen
Principal Latito Williams, Assitant Principal Rick Rebsamen

Camp NES is theme for elementary school with ‘adventure’ for all

By Terrica Hendrix
News-Leader staff

The Nashville Elementary School staff has been busy planning lessons, activities and a camp theme for the building.

Each year, the schools create a theme for the buildings and activities that correlate with the theme. “Our building theme is ‘Camp NES: The Adventure of a Lifetime,'” Nashville Elementary Principal Latito Williams said. The teachers and staff will be “motivating our kids” with items to go with their “campsite.” The students will have a makeshift campsite in the hallways and each time a student achieves a reading level goal or other goals, he or she will receive a campsite item. The students who complete their campsite will receive various incentives, according to Williams.

The principal said he expects 463 students in his building during this school year. The NES building has 32 certified teachers.

When primary and elementary students arrive on their first day, on Aug. 15, all of their school supplies will be on their desks. Williams said he and Assistant Principal Rick Rebsamen have been sorting out the school supplies in the elementary’s P.E. room.

The Nashville School Board recently approved Superintendent Doug Graham’s proposal to purchase supplies for students in grades kindergarten through sixth.

Backpacks and lunch boxes will not be provided.

“We are excited that we are able to help the families in our community to save on the expense of getting ready for school,” Williams said. He added that he has already received “really appreciative, positive statements from families with multiple children.”

“We would like to show our appreciation to Mr. Graham and the school board for their forward thinking on this project,” Williams added.

Williams said that all student laptops will be updated to Windows 10 and the district “is purchasing desktop computers for all teachers.”

Two Special Education classrooms “have been outfitted with table and chairs that will allow students to work more collaboratively with teachers,” Williams added.

Parents will notice two changes to the student handbook this year. “We removed the system of demerits from the discipline section and added a policy on how to handle lice on students.” Williams continued, “Our district has outsourced our food services to Aramark. We expect several menu items to change, and we feel like students will like it and the portion size changes.”

Williams said he and his staff have “purchased lots of balls and hula hoops for kids to use at recess to encourage students to get out and play. Our primary academic focus will be on writing and specifically teaching students how to formulate ideas and be able to communicate them in an electric format in a certain amount of time.”

Sixth grade teachers will introduce new technology course called, “Technology Communications.” The students in that course will “learn things we were teaching in ninth and 10th grades five years ago.”

Williams said his building will “be really firm about” student attendance. Students “need to be there all day, every day. Parents need to drop their children off on time.”

Williams will send home a monthly newsletter to parents. He also posts events and various reminders on the NES Facebook page, Twitter, and website.

School begins at 7:50 a.m. at NES.

The elementary open house, “Meet the Teacher” Day, and registration will be combined into one event and will be held on Aug. 11 from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Assistant Principal Terry Young, Principal Shirley Wright
Assistant Principal Terry Young, Principal Shirley Wright

Influence of Dr. Seuss felt at Nashville Primary School

The theme for Nashville Primary School in 2016-17 is based on Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places We Will Go!” Through lessons, books and technology, students will experience a wealth of academic experiences, according to Principal Shirley Wright.

Registration papers have been mailed to parents of first – third grade students to allow parents time to complete the forms and return them to their child’s teacher during the registration day, Thursday, Aug. 11, anytime between 1-7 PM.

All kindergarten – third grade students should have received a letter from their classroom teacher and a meal application, Wright said.  “Only one form per family will need to be completely filled out for verification to be processed, if interested in applying for free or reduced school meals. It doesn’t matter which Nashville school the form is turned in to as long as all members of the household are listed including all children and their grade level.”

Registration, Meet the teacher, and Open House will be combined with later hours from 1-7 p.m. to help accommodate our working parents on Thursday, Aug. 11. All students and parents are encouraged to attend and meet their classroom teacher and staff members. Teachers may have additional information and forms to give to parents.

Classroom teachers will be asking parents to sign up for a “Remind” communication to receive information from that classroom teacher.

“School supplies are being furnished by our school district this year for kindergarten – sixth grade students. We hope this will be a big help to parents and students,” Wright said.

A student handbook will be given to students/parents at registration. It contains Primary’s policies and guidelines.  “It is hopeful that it will help students/parents know Primary’s rules, procedures and practices. The district’s student handbook policies can be found on our school district’s website at:  www.nashvillesd.com  Handbooks have been school board approved,” according to Wright.

**A school calendar is enclosed in the student handbook to help parents plan special out of town events, vacations and doctor/dentist appointments so their child will not miss school. 

**Enrollment for now is about 620 students, according to Wright. “We will have several new students to enroll during registration and the first day of school.”

Enrollment by grades includes the following:

Kindergarten, 141 students

First Grade, 163 students

Second Grade,139 students

Third Grade, 174 students

Primary did not have any new staff members hired this year.  Katelyn Teague did transfer from first grade to third grade due to the enrollment number of third grade students.

K-3 Standards include:  English Language Arts, Math, Science and Computer Science.  The school continues to have a comprehensive reading program and McGraw Hill for our math instruction.  Teachers will have a new online help called Zuni.  It has resources by grade level that are matched to our standards.  Benchmark Phonics has been added to second and third grades to continue the phonics program from kindergarten and first grade.  Moby Mac has also been added from third grade to include K-3.  Writing will be emphasized in all grade levels.

SCRAP time had been added in the schedule daily from 8 – 8:30 a.m. to include enrichment and intensive reading strategies.

“Attendance is very important.  We need the students here on time, 7:50 a.m., and to remain here until 3:05 p.m., every school day, unless sick.  Coming in tardy and getting checked out early interrupts their learning,” Wright said.

“Communication is a vital tool necessary for students’ educational achievements.  Each teacher has a 40-minute daily conference time set aside for parent conferences, planning, and preparation,” Wright said.

A nine week syllabus per grade level will be sent home with students at the beginning of each nine week period to list the standards and objectives to be covered and mastered during that grading period. “Parents are encouraged to keep that to refer to as reinforcement of skills their child should know and master,” Wright said.

A monthly principal’s newsletter will be sent home with all students with important dates and events to help parents and students keep up with the Primary happenings.

“Patience with school traffic, allow extra time in the mornings due to traffic and safety for our students.  If you bring your child to school in the mornings, please drive through in one of the two lines in the car area (not the bus area) for your child’s safety.  Do not drop them off at the road for them to cross traffic.  Students eating breakfast need to go straight into the cafeteria before going to the hallway of their classroom.  If students eat breakfast at home, they are to go straight to the hallway area of their classroom when arriving at school.  The bell rings at 7:50 at enter their classroom,” Wright said.

“After the first day of school, parents need to let their children enter and exit the building without them.  Duty personnel and staff members will assist all children to their proper place.”

PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) was formed last year and “will hopefully continue to grow.  Primary had several dedicated moms and dads that worked together to help our students and staff.  If anyone wants to join the group, they meet the second Tuesday of each month at 6 PM in the Primary cafeteria,” Wright said.

For safety of students and staff, all doors will be locked except to the main office entrance.  Everyone is to stop and check in the office before entering any classroom, according to Wright. 

“Transportation plans for every child are very important.  Parents are urged to discuss and confirm with their child’s classroom teacher how their child is to go home every afternoon.  Those plans will be strictly enforced, unless a note is sent with the change to the teacher or a telephone call is made to the school before 2 p.m. that day.”

SCRAP-Time to place focus on daily reading

Nashville Primary will be starting a new program during the 2016-17 school year.  It will be called SCRAP-Time:  Students Concentrating (on) Reading At Primary.  During this time, teachers will be utilizing new screeners that will help detect and diagnose the exact skills that students are lacking and causing them to experience reading difficulties.  During SCRAP-Time, teachers will provide precise interventions to help correct those reading issues and bring students up to or closer to their desired reading level.  Students not needing corrective reading strategies will be reading for enrichment during SCRAP-Time and taking Accelerated Reader tests to earn points for individual and class prizes.

The staff at Nashville Primary is excited about the new program and hopes that this will be a monumental step in helping correct underlying reading problems before students begin to struggle and fall behind.   

Mrs. Stanley, the NPS Literacy Coach,  stated, “This will be the only allotted time during the school day set aside to specifically allow students time for reading enrichment and to focus explicitly on reading correction.  One of the key factors for the success of the program will be parents making a commitment to getting their students to school on time each day.  Students coming in late will disrupt the flow in the classroom, as well as, miss some or all of this very important part of their day.  We are asking our parents to please make every effort to have their students at school by 7:50 when our bell rings.  From 7:50-8:00 teachers will be taking lunch count and attendance while students will be putting up supplies, lunchboxes, and getting prepared to begin SCRAP-Time promptly at 8:00 A.M.”

Nashville Primary is committed to doing all we can to help our students achieve to the best of their ability. We are looking forward to a wonderful school year and successful gains for our students!  We would like to thank our parents in advance for helping us with this new program. 

Dierks School District: Upgrades in place for new school year

By John Balch
News-Leader staff

“Really, we’ve just taken what we already have, and we’ve made it better,” said Dierks Superintendent Holly Cothren as the district prepares to open the new school year Monday with several upgrades and new features already in place.

One of the first new things visitors to the campus will encounter will be at the front doors of both the high school and elementary buildings and involves the ever-growing concern of school districts: safety.

The district is now equipped with buzzer systems at the front doors which will constantly control access to the district’s buildings.

“Access will be limited,” Cothren said of the new security system. “Our secretaries now have monitors that will allow them to see who is standing at the doors and they can press a button to open it, or not to open it.”

“The campus is very secure now,” she added. “It has to be these days.”

Once inside the buildings, a new LED lighting system lights up every building district-wide. “We’ve made so many upgrades and the lighting is just incredible.”

The benefit of the new lighting is obvious in the gymnasium where the playing surface has been refurbished and features a giant Dierks Outlaw stallion reared up on its hind legs. Cothren said a new sound system has also been installed in the gym.

“It’s stunning,” Cothren said about the gym’s makeover. “We’re very proud of this transformation.”

At the elementary school, a new modular building – complete with restrooms – is in place and will house two classrooms to be used by the district’s preschool. The relocation of the preschool frees up two more elementary classrooms, something Cothren said the district desperately needed.

“Last year, we were really, really spaced deprived at the elementary,” she said. “We’ve shuffled and moved some classrooms around and were able to give one of the portable buildings we’ve been using to our mental health provider. Whatever they need to do, they have plenty of space now.”

Another change at the elementary will be the addition of a salad bar in the cafeteria. “That’s the biggest news of all,” Cothren said with a laugh.

Dierks’ Jo Ann Walters Elementary will host its annual back to school Open House Thursday, Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. at the elementary gym. “We would like to invite all parents and students to come and meet their teachers as we prepare for a new school year,” said Elementary Principal Karla Byrne.

Several new employees have joined the district, including new band director, Jeremy Drymon, and new head football coach and athletic director, Vince Perrin.

Drymon replaced Thomas Trigg and comes to Dierks after working at the University of Arkansas-Monticello. Drymon has also served as band director and music teacher at schools in Hampton and Clarenson and was a graduate teaching assistant at Arkansas State University, where he received his bachelor and master degrees in music education.

The Dierks Booster Club will host a meet-and-greet Friday, Aug. 12 to officially introduce Coach Perrin to Outlaw fans. The event will be held at the Dierks Community Building, beginning at 6 p.m. and will include a brisket dinner fundraiser.

Perrin was hired in May to replace David Bennett, who accepted a job with the Horatio School District after 16 years as an Outlaw.

Perrin comes to Dierks after a two-year stint at Stuttgart where he served as head football coach and athletic director, the same duties he will take over at Dierks.

He lead the Rice Birds to a 9-12 record in those two years.

Prior to Stuttgart, Perrin headed up the athletic program and coached at Mineral Springs for two successful seasons. He had a combined record of 20-5 with the MS Hornets.

Perrin, a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University where he played Tiger football for four years and earned postseason awards, has also coached at Arkadelphia, Springdale, Bearden, Greenwood, Clinton, Lakeside and Alma.

The Lake Hamilton High School graduate also played the 2001 season with the Bossier City Battle Wings in the AF2 League, a developmental league of the Arena Football League.

“We have a great staff, not just the teachers, and the new members are just going to make it better,” Cothren added.

Cothren said Perrin is not the only change this year at Ayers Field. The Dierks School Board recently voted to build a four-feet high fence on the inside of the track around the football field. Cothren said the decision to build the fence was based on an Arkansas Activities Association rule which states districts that host playoff football games must have such a fence in place.

The district’s quest to make advances in technology also continues this year with the purchase of 90 more ChromeBooks and more mobile charging carts.

“I dare to say we are 1-to-1 computing in third through 12th grades,” she said. “That’s a large leap.”

Enrollment campus-wide is expected to be up this year by 20 to 25 students. No one grade has experienced an increase, instead, “it’s sprinkled throughout the grades, which is wonderful,” Cothren said. “That keeps us from having to hire more teachers.”

NewteachersMS
New teachers at Mineral Springs include Hannah Topor, Carmen Wise, and Jessica Jonasson.
kesslerms
Mineral Springs High School Principal Josh Kessler
TurnerMS
Superintendent Curtis Turner, Jr.

Mineral Springs School District: New high school principal ready for students to arrive for 1st day

By Nicole Tracy
News-Leader staff

The school year is about to begin for the Mineral Springs School District. Mineral Springs students will be returning to school on Aug. 15, and students at the high school will encounter a new face in the form of new MSHS principal, Josh Kessler.

Kessler hails from Linden, Texas, and has 15 years experience in education behind him, as well as two years of administrative experience.

“My plans are to continue the progress that this school has begun to make towards achievement, to continue that momentum, and to support teachers and the community in bringing about successful kids.”, said Kessler. “It’s all about student achievement and helping kids be successful.” he added.

Kessler’s wife is a MS graduate, and also has two children.

Superintendent Curtis Turner is overseeing a busy year for the district, from the beginning stages of construction of the district’s new school building, to a battle with the Arkansas Department of Education over unfairly labeling the district to be in ‘academic distress’. A lawsuit filed by the school board is pending in the matter.

“We’ve started workshops that will last thru Thursday, and Friday will be the final day to get everything ready to go for when our kids show back up.” Turner stated.

Administration for the Mineral Springs School District includes Superintendent Turner, Elementary Principal Stacy Gauldin, High School Principal Kessler, Gene Strode, Athletic Director, Tim Erwin, Marla Williams, Robin Walton, Frankie Darr, Wendy Reed, and LaDonna Curtis.

New staff members have been hired by the district this year, and include Hannah Toper, Carmen Wise, and Jessica Jonasson.

image-7
Murfreesboro High School students Meagan Cullen and Loran Wilcher work last week with on of the districts mobile charging carts. The students’ parents are both employees of the school district.
image-8
Special Education Administrator Traci Jones assists with finalizing student schedules during a registration session held last week.

South Pike County School District: Taking the lead in technology

By John Balch
News-Leader staff

When the South Pike County School District opens the new school year, it will be the first district in the state to use the new iPad Pro in a 1-to-1 setting in grades 7-12, and the distinction will result in the district becoming an Apple Distinguished School, according to Chad Brinkley, the district’s technology consultant.

The district’s quest to expand its technology capabilities began only a few years ago, but it has now taken ahold and is quickly advancing, far quicker than Superintendent Roger Featherston every thought it would.

“In a few years span, we’ve gone from being light years behind in technology to being really on the cutting edge,” Featherston said last week.

Brinkley agreed, “We’re the ones kind of blazing the trail now.”

The school district, which includes high school and elementary schools in Murfreesboro and an elementary campus in Delight, was the first district to see the new Apple software called Apple Classroom and Apple School Manager. Brinkley said once everything is in place and the Apple Distinguished School title bestowed, the school will become a pilot program other schools looking to make technology advances will be turning to for advice. “It used to be the other way around,” Featherston added.

The district made the decision to switch from MacBook Airs to the new iPad Pro for grades 7-12 for a variety of reasons. “The iPad Pro is more of a creative device,” Brinkley said. “It provides the same software as MacBooks but we don’t lose all the apps (applications) we can get on the iPads.” He said there are more than 500,000 educational apps available for the iPad devices.

The iPad Pro, which each come with a Smart Keyboard, will also afford teachers more control and classroom management, which was a big concern about MacBooks among high school teachers.

“The teachers want to be able to see what their students are doing and be able to monitor their work,” Brinkley said. “With the iPad Pro, they will have as much control as they want as a teacher.”

The new devices will come with an optional Smart Pencil that will cost $100 each. “You don’t have to have the pencil, but the pencil is insane with the things that it will do,” Brinkley said.

The iPad Pro devices are also $150 cheaper (approximately $735 each without the $100 Smart Pencil) than the MacBooks. The devices are being purchased through a three-year lease program with Apple.

“It’s not that it’s a new cool device,” Brinkley said, “it’s what the new cool will do for us.”

The rest of the district’s student population at both Murfreesboro and Delight will be issued iPad Air devices to complete the 1-to-1 goal.

The district has changed its take-home policy for devices issued by the school. Students in grades 5th through 12th will be allowed to take their devices home daily while the younger students will be required to leave the devices at school. The only exception will be for students in grades 3-4 when they have special projects that may require homework.

When the district hosts its open house Thursday night, there will be a short video presentation that students must watch and sign-off on before their students will be allowed to take their devices home. The video will also be available through the district’s website.

Featherston said the devices will be ready to issue for grades K-6 on the first day of school Monday and the new iPad Pro devices will be rolled out for grades 7-12 over the next week.

Previous articlePractice underway for NHS Tennis Team
Next articleObituary: Jefferson Francis Bell; Mineral Springs