BY MELANIE BUCK –
Mena School administrators and coordinators presented positive reports to the Mena School Board at their annual Report to the Public on Tuesday, October 20, 2015. Following a short facilities meeting led by Facility Coordinator Gene Hock,
Superintendent Benny Weston welcomed those in attendance and presented an overall report.
Weston said this year’s enrollment numbers increased over last year bringing the total number of students from the four campuses, in grades Kindergarten through 12th, to 1,766 students plus an additional 120 pre-school students. There are currently 264 people employed with the district; 150 are certified staff and 114 classified staff. The beginning teacher salary is $33,100 and caps at $51,900, depending on level of degree and experience.
The school district’s ACT scores have averaged at 20.9 on the overall composite score, slightly above state levels that averaged 20.4. The 2015 graduating class of Mena High School was offered $3,410.840.40 in scholarships.
As for spring testing, none of the Spring 2014 test results have been made available to any schools in the state therefore none of the campus administrators could present results as to how students tested last year. Each administrator said they would present those results as they are made available.
The state issued school report card that grades school districts in various areas, gave Mena a GPA of 3.25, where they received two A’s, one B, and one C. Not only did the school score well, students brought home many awards in the last year for their activities. Weston said, “Our students are award winning in band, choir, JAG, Quiz Bowl, Art, and Playwriting. We were 4A State Champions in Volleyball, Softball, and Track. We were 4A State Runners-Up in Football, Weightlifting, and Project Unify.”
Weston also reported that the transportation department of the district has a fleet of 28 buses that manage 23 bus routes, totaling 1,560 miles per week, plus additional trips for clubs, athletics, and educational enrichment. “We have also started three afternoon bus routes to transport our students who participate in our 21st Century Grant after-school program,” said Weston.
A new Panic Button App is being implemented within the district. As required by state law, the Panic Button App will be part of their Crisis Plan and training. “We continue to prioritize school safety with cooperation with local and state law enforcement personnel,” Weston said.
Board members and others in attendance heard from all campus administrators and programs leaders. Assistant Superintendent Jeanne Smith explained that the district will be moving to Aspire testing this year and that it will create a better alignment with the ACT test than current PAARC testing. She stated the current curriculum is ‘horizontal’ and that by next year, they hope for it to be ‘vertical.’ Smith also explained that while the state has released standards for science and social studies, they still have not done so for English language arts and math, causing a bit more hardship on educators however, Smith said, “We are waiting patiently.”
Paulette Sherrer expressed her praise for the ‘commendable job’ being done on all four campuses and that she sees growth and opportunity in all.
Louise Durham Principal Jimma Holder was pleased to say that LD was again recognized as a top 10% school in the state. “We’re shooting for top 5% next year,” smiled Holder.
Holly Harshman Principal Tamara Smart reported that HHE now has Quiz Bowl and that 4th graders took first place in the first ever meet at the school. Smart also said that the new FLASH CATS program is running great. Supper, educational help, and transportation is provided through the program. FLASH CATS took their first field trip to the Clinton Library in Little Rock through the 21st Century Grant funded program. There were 39 students and 13 parent volunteers attend the trip.
Mena Middle School Principal Mike Hobson had several positive points about his campus as well. A TEAM Class that was implemented last year is helping students to flourish by building positive relationships and it “helps the overall atmosphere of the school,” said Hobson. A 7th grade Mac lab has been installed for a service learning class where students learn how to better serve others and their community and a new lifetime wellness class “has grown by leaps and bounds and the coaches have done an outstanding job teaching these kids wellness that will last them a lifetime,” Hobson said. Afterschool tutoring was also brought back this year, proving to be a popular program. Hobson reported that 41 students attended tutoring on Tuesday.
Shane Torix, Principal of Mena High School, is the only campus to report a decline in students, but only by a few. Torix reported that they have tutoring before and after school that has proven to be a vital tool for their students. Torix also raved about the academic extracurricular activities such as FCCLA, FBLA, FFA, JAG, Choir, Band, and others by saying, “We have an outstanding school. If our kids are involved in an activity they’re going to be successful. Our teachers work extremely hard and we have excellent kids. Anytime you drive by the High School, there is always someone there doing something for an activity.”
Tood Coogan is the new director of Alternative Education. AE boasts 14 instructors, with two of those being full time. Coogan said that he is trying to get rid of the stigma that AE is a “dumping ground for undesirables” and has allowed students to have regular lunches with general education students. “Mr. Torix and I are trying this and so far it’s worked out really well.” Something else new this year is that three AE students that are seniors, are taking AE during the morning and attending RMCC in the afternoons, creating success stories for each student.
Superintendent Weston said, “Our mission is to ‘Engage Community; Inspire Students; and Prepare Graduates.’ We are proud of the work we have done this past year; the summary of which is reflected in this report. Mena Public Schools is committed to continuing and improving upon our positive impact.”
The Mena School Board met for their regular monthly meeting following the annual report to the public. During the meeting, Weston reported that the roof on Mena High School’s gym has been fixed and while inspecting campuses, insurance representatives found hail damage on portions of the roofs of Holly Harshman and Louise Durham. The insurance company will have the damaged portions of the roofs fixed at no cost to the school. Also, a Child Nutrition Grant Award was received for $24,274 to replace a freezer/cooler in the Holly Harshman cafeteria.
The next Mena School Board meeting will take place on November 17, 2015 at the Mena School Administration Building.