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Mena schools to see changes to the rules and policies

Submitted by Mark Hobson

The Mena School Board met for their regular July meeting on Tuesday, July 18, in the district administration building.

The meeting began with the Superintendent’s Report. Dr. Lee Smith recognized Assistant Superintendent Bridget Buckley who shared the academic report. She updated the board on the many new programs being instituted throughout the district that will allow for progress monitoring at a higher level.

Smith then told the board that breakfast will be free for all students at Holly Harshman Elementary (HHE) and Louise Durham Elementary (LDE) in 2023-2024. He also stated that those who qualify for reduced meals will, in fact, be free this coming school year.

Smith then stated that the Report to the Public will be online by the time school begins on August 16 as required.

District Maintenance Supervisor Danny Minton took the floor to give an update on projects. Installation of the new security fencing at LDE has begun. Flooring Outfitters will begin installing new baseboards next week. A new dishwasher has been installed at HHE. 

Minton also stated that the Big Dog lawnmower will be transferred for use on the ball fields at Union Bank Park and recommended the purchase of a new Bobcat mower from Tim’s Yamaha at a cost of $13,140. The board approved. 

Minton also recommended the conversion of lights in the Performing Arts Center and the purchase of LED lights and switches at a cost of $19,630. The board approved.

Smith added that architectural fees for concession construction at Bob Carver Bearcat Stadium were due at a cost of $34,883. The board approved.

Next on the agenda was the renewal of building and property insurance for 2023-2024. There was a 125% increase in the rates this year. The state is supplying 30% of that increase. The premium is $202,019. The board approved.

The premium for vehicle and bus insurance for 2023-2024 was also due at a cost of $29,392. The board approved.

Handbook policy changes

The board then heard from administrators of changes to student handbooks for 2023-2024.

Mena High School Principal David Maxwell told the board about a new time off policy where MHS students can earn two hours off for every 40 hours attended. He also noted changes in the concurrent credit offerings, the concurrent credit attendance policy, early graduation, fifth year policy, community service plan, the behavior matrix and student engagement.

Athletic Director Craig Bentley made one change to the athletic handbook that dealt with students who stop playing a sport being allowed to move on to the off season for the next sport.

Mena Middle School Principal Todd Coogan updated some wording on the unexcused absence policy. He also updated the board on changes to the vaping policy. With the first offense a student will receive ISS and be required to complete a cessation program. With a second offense community service hours will be required.

Principal Tamara Smart of HHE announced updates in wording and changes in arrival time, the attendance policy, bus behavior matrix, the bad weather policy, the cafeteria and meal charge policy among others.

Principal Samantha Sellers at LDE also had some minor changes to the discipline matrix, appearance and dress code, bad weather policy and the electronic device policy among others.

Student handbooks will be added to each school’s website for review at a later date.

Financial and personnel

The financial report was next on the agenda. Smith informed the board that the cost of utilities and fuel had exceeded the amount budgeted for the year. He also expects the district to finish the year with a surplus of funds. The board approved.

Finally in personnel the board accepted the resignation of Hannah Estes, second grade teacher at LDE and hired Kaela Mendoza to replace Estes at LDE.

The board also approved the hiring of:

  • Jori Abernathy – Special Education Paraprofessional at MHS
  • Kendra Cooper – Special Education Self-Contained Paraprofessional at MHS
  • Donald Hughes – Special Education Self-Contained Paraprofessional at LDE
  • Whitley Lepine – Special Education Self-Contained Paraprofessional at HHE
  • Kimberly Taylor – Licensed Practical Nurse at HHE

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