The Newport Special School District held its regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 16, in the board room of the Administration Building.

The Board members in attendance included Jeff Rutledge, Jeff Sampson, and Todd Norris. Kathy Green and Heath George joined the meeting virtually. Bryson Elston and Loftin Kent were absent. The meeting opened with a prayer by Jeff Rutledge followed by the Pledge of Allegiance by Todd Norris.

In new business, Superintendent Brett Bunch presented information about the marquee in front of the sixth grade building, as well as two bids. Jeff Sampson asked if it is possible to take the video panels down and replace with something less costly and make it more appealing. Bunch indicated he would research that possibility and the board voted to table the project until that information could be researched.

Superintendent Bunch provided the Board information about a future multi-purpose facility proposal and informed the board that he would have detailed information for the Board in April. Todd Norris stated the need for the facility is even greater than originally presented and he would be in favor of it being built. No action was taken.

The Board was presented with a Board-to-Board transfer student from Valley View wishing to transfer into Newport. Mr. Bunch provided additional information on the student and informed the Board that Valley View had already approved the transfer, which the board approved.

Bunch explained the current district policy on interscholastic athletics and expressed the need, identified by administration, the athletic director, and coaches, for changes so that the interscholastic athletes would be more academically accountable. The changes include athletes in the SIP program and those that need additional help in Math and English to have after-school tutoring to help bring grades into compliance with the AAA. After discussion, the motion was approved.

The Superintendent presented a policy change on behalf of the Certified PPC Committee. The PPC voted on a change for the Leave Policy 3.11. The change would roll over the personal days not used during the school year into sick days. The current policy allows for certified staff to carry up to five personal days they have not used and the cap for sick days for the district was currently sitting at 120 days. Bunch was supportive of the request to roll over the unused personal days into sick days but would like the board to consider making some additional changes.

The changes were to grandfather in those that currently have more than 90 days of sick leave and lower that cap from 120 to 90 days. Following some discussion, the board voted and passed to make the policy change for personal days going forward.

Continuing Certified PPC policy, Bunch presented, and the board approved an additional policy designed by the Arkansas School Board Association and discussed by the Certified PPC as well. The COVID Policy for the district allows staff impacted by COVID an additional 10 days of coverage, provided the requirements are met, before using sick leave. The State provided coverage in 2020 until December 31, 2020. The new policy continues coverage into 2021 for staff effective January 4, 2021 until June 30, 2021 if qualified. The costs are covered by the ESSER funds of the Federal Relief Package.

In the Superintendent’s report, Bunch informed the Board about the recent ASBA Law Conference and some of the items covered. Green and Elston also attended the meeting and Kathy Green made a couple of comments about the training. Bunch recognized the Senior Boys Basketball team for winning the 2021 3A-Region 2 Conference Championship.

The board went into executive session to discuss resignations and employment at 6:54 p.m. and returned to open session at 7:51 p.m. Superintendent Bunch made the following recommendations and the board approved unanimously:

Recommended the acceptance of the resignation for Samantha Aitkens as the assistant volleyball coach effective at the end of the current school year.

Recommended the acceptance of the resignation of Heather Pressgrove as an elementary kindergarten teacher effective at the end of the current school year.

Recommended the acceptance of the resignation of Chelsea Baumgarner as an elementary kindergarten teacher effective at the end of the current school year.

Recommended the acceptance of the resignation of Samantha Koechner as a personal aide effective January 29, 2021.

Recommended the hiring of 1st Sergeant James Johnson to replace the retiring 1st Sergeant Woody Daniel as the JROTC Army Instructor to begin at the end of the current school year.

The Superintendent also recommended the renewal of the following administrators’ contracts for the 2021-2022 school year:

Ronnie Kay Erwin, GT/Career Tech Director

Joey McKnight, Technology Director

Heather Graham, Special Education Director

Terri Kane, High School Principal

Amy Thaxton, Elementary Principal

Jon Bradley, High School Assistant Principal

Tiffany Henderson, Elementary Assistant Principal

Benny Reynolds, High School Dean of Students

Mark Hindsley, Athletic Director/Coach

The motion was made by Kathy Green and Todd Norris to approve all recommendations. The vote was 4-1 with Jeff Sampson stating, “Since all administrators are being recommended together and I disagree with one, I must vote no.” The motion passed and contracts were renewed for the next year.

Todd Norris made a motion to adjourn, seconded by Jeff Sampson and the motion was approved 5-0 at 7:54 p.m.

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