School board presents annual report to public

Thursday, October 17, 2019

By Haley Schichtl

The Eureka Springs School Board presented its annual report to the public at its meeting Monday, Oct. 14.

The district will have parent/teacher conferences this Friday, Oct. 18.

All the principals gave reports on their buildings, starting with elementary principal Clare Lesieur.

“Last year, our school took a giant leap in computer science education by providing 1:1 Chromebooks in classrooms,” Lesieur said. “We also added a certified teacher for computer science instruction to deepen our students’ 21st century and STEM skills.”

Lesieur said the most crucial area the school has improved is its attendance.

“Students with chronic absenteeism have improved from 57 students chronically absent at this time last year to only two currently in this category,” she said. “Our average days absent is down from 6.7 days to 2.6 days absent.”

Middle school principal Cindy Holt then gave her update.

“Every year we’re adding more of the stand-up desks and stools; we’ve got several classrooms using those,” Holt said. “I believe we are going to be pursuing even more of those. The students have the option to sit on their stool while they work. … It just gives them some mobility, which brain science says is positive for our students.”

She said every student has a Chromebook in the middle school as well, and that next Friday will be the middle school awards ceremony.

“The middle school plan of action is to continue to improve student math and reading achievement, to use data to inform decision-making along that process, and to focus on those mental health awareness pieces and positive behavior interventions,” Holt said.

High school principal David Gilmore gave his report next.

“Right now we have a very good balance of college and career options for our students at the high school. We have six AP classes and we have numerous pre-AP classes. We have concurrent credit classes through Arkansas State,” Gilmore said. “We have a very strong career technical ed program right now. … In every one of our programs I’m seeing hands-on work.”

Gilmore said the high school purchased some baby simulators last year for students to take home and see what it is like to have a real baby, which they will be doing later this year.

Red Ribbon Week is next week, and Gilmore said it will cover topics such as vaping, opioid use and drunk driving. On one of the days, the students will get to wear “drunk goggles” and drive golf carts to see what driving impaired is like, he said.

“The following week will be homecoming week,” Gilmore said. “We’re going to kick off that week with our annual bonfire, and we have some activities during the week for the students to get them pepped up and ready for homecoming. At the end of the week, that Friday, we’ll have our homecoming game and dance.”

Next, counselor and district test coordinator Rachal Hyatt gave an update on district test scores and school performance.

She reported that on the ACT Aspire, the middle school scored around the same as the national average, and the high school and third and fourth graders scored above national average.

On the ACT, which is given to juniors for free every year at Eureka Springs, the students scored higher in every subject than the class before them.

On AP tests in high school, Eureka Springs students scored an average of a 3, allowing them college credit, compared with the national average of 2.

“Last year we were ranked 48th out of 248 schools in Arkansas, and this year we’re 27th,” Hyatt said. “That’s quite a jump.”

Gifted and Talented director Shelly Martin then gave her update on the GT program.

Martin said there are currently 49 students in GT in the district, with seven in elementary, 23 in middle school and 19 in high school. She said the numbers will probably change over the next month or two because it is still early on in the school year.

“Gifted and Talented students also participate in a lot of activities, competitions, different programs, and there have been a few new programs that have opened up for them this year,” Martin said.

She said there is a new event called Creativity Day, which will be STEM and design-based to allow students to experiment with robotics and physics. High school also has added a Gifted Day on the 25th, which will let students participate in breakout sessions and speak with representatives from colleges or post-graduation alternatives, Martin said.

“For high school, we’re going to be including the ACT Tessera, which is a test that measures social and emotional learning skills,” Martin said. “It will give students a profile of their interests. … We want them to find careers in things that really connect with them.”

Next, special education supervisor Gail Hunter discussed that program.

“We have a total of 95 students; at this time last year we were at 78,” she said. “We have 14 students that are what we call reformal, or transfer process, so we could end up with a total of 109 special ed children, most likely by December.”

Hunter said there are seven special education teachers and eight paraprofessionals on staff.

After the report to the public, the board went on to its regular board meeting.

The transfers of three students into Eureka Springs and four students out of Eureka Springs were approved unanimously.

The board also agreed to hire a new bus driver and hourly mechanic, Arthur Miller, and computer technician, Cameron High. They agreed to accept the resignation of paraprofessional Patty Duffy, which will be effective by December 31, 2019.

The next regular Eureka Springs School Board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, in the administration building.

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