The Eureka Springs School Board had a busy meeting Tuesday night. Following the re-election of Charles Templeton as Eureka School Board President and Sam Kirk as Secretary, the boarded elected Karen Gros as School Board Vice-President.
At the center of the meeting, though, were the presentations to the public by the school district's three principals -- Clare Lesieur for Elementary, Cindy Holt for Middle School, and Kathryn Lavender for High School.
Lesieur focused her presentation on the "Professional Learning Community" concept. Many of the elements of this approach are simple but meaningful. "Breakfast no matter when they come in," she said. "The snack pack program. We have a nurse here. We want to meet the physical needs of the students as well as their learning needs. We have 80 minutes of physical activity and 80 minutes of music, which is twice what the state requires. Integrating the whole child approach at this level particularly is very important."
On an emotional level, Lesieur spoke on the social needs of the students, the need for them to learn how to interact. "We work to create a clean, safe, positive environment here," she said. "The staff is happy to see you when you walk in the door. Parents are always welcome. We offer mentoring programs. Rotary and other organizations come to work with us."
In discussing the Middle School, Holt walked the board through some numbers, the most recent literacy and math benchmark scores for the school.
"We have made some great strides in literacy," she said. "We are definitely moving in the right direction. All our Middle School students scored excellently in comparison to state averages."
In every case, classes of students migrating up from grade three to eight showed steadily improving test scores, always above the state average, and in some cases well above.
"In math we made some headway," she said. "For some reason, eighth graders seem to have some difficulty with math. For several years we have trailed or just met the state number, but this year we broke 70th percentile and in fact hit 75, well above the state average of 69."
Board Chairman Charles Templeton correctly pointed out eighth graders have to deal with both eighth grade math and algebra, which might account for some of their difficulties.
Lavender, in discussing the high school numbers, explained literacy in high school had dropped two percent this past year. "The state has a 68 percentile average," she said. "It was a 15 percent drop for us, although given the fact only 41 students took the test as juniors, one student's performance could shift the average three percentage points."
By contrast, Lavender pointed out the high school is at a 94 percentile proficiency level, up six percent over last year; in geometry Eureka scored a 92, almost a 20 percent jump over last year; in biology the students scored 61, while the state score was only 42 -- "It's a difficult test," Lavender said.
Turner brought the board and public up to date on an ongoing legal action. "We are in the middle of a lawsuit with the state over funding," he said.
The lawsuit stems back to the 2010-2011 school year, when the school district's millage income exceeded the $6,023 allocated to each student by the state. As a result, the state ruled Eureka could not keep the excess $824,914. The issue has been in court since then.
"This affects our operation," Turner said. "However, we did win the first round in the lower court in Little Rock on Jan. 1. He ordered the state to pay us the monies it has been withholding. The state appealed it to the state supreme court. Oral arguments were presented Oct. 4."
Turner said the decision could come at any moment. "All they said was it could come on any Thursday," he said. "So it could be in two days or it could be Christmas. We don't know. But I feel good about it. I'll be proud when this thing has settled. It will lend us direction as to what we can or cannot do as a school district."
Following the regular meeting, the board went into executive session "over the employee/employment issue."