The Mena School Board held their July meeting on Tuesday at the district administration building.

Dr. Lee Smith began the meeting with his superintendent’s report. He informed the board that bids are being accepted for the construction of outdoor pavilions at each campus and he anticipates that construction will begin in August or early September.

Smith then informed the board that the federal government allowed schools to offer free meals to all students during the pandemic, but Congress did not extend this benefit for 2022/2023. Families that are eligible for free or reduced-price meals must apply to receive them, and all other students must pay full price for their meals. Due to the increased cost of food the state has also recommended increasing price. There will be a .10 cent increase for students. Making breakfast $1.80 and lunch $2.85. Adults will see an increase of .30 cents. The good news is that students at Louise Durham and Holly Harshman will eat breakfast free. Parents are encouraged to fill out the free lunch form found on the school website whether you think you qualify or not. Students who qualify receive additional benefits such as fee waivers for the ACT test and additional opportunities for financial aid for college or vocational training.

Assistant Superintendent Bridget Buckley then gave a presentation on the upcoming “One District, One Book” program. The Mena School District will be engaging our entire community to participate in a shared reading experience. One District One Book is a reading program that involves students and families in grades Pre-K-12. The event is scheduled to begin on September 6th. The school board unanimously approved the program and asked full participation of staff members, community members, students and parents.

Next on the agenda was the annual report to the public. Smith noted that the district is now required to post the report online by August 1st. Since all the information is not available until later in the year an incomplete report will be available at first with a complete report to follow at a later date.

Mr. Danny Minton, district maintenance supervisor, updated progress on projects. He stated that the new agriculture science barn has been completed. Paving at Bob Carver Bearcat Stadium should begin next week. Stripping and waxing of the floors at LDE, HHE and MMS is nearing completion. The crew doing the tile stripping and concrete polishing project at MHS are expected to begin on August 8th. Heating and air conditioning improvements continue across the district and drainage issues at MMS are being addressed.

Dr. Smith then proposed an update to the recruitment and retention plan. The update would reflect that it is a three year plan with an emphasis on high school students choosing teaching as a career. The update was approved.

The board was also reminded of the district registered volunteer and visitor policies. With the increase of people who will be back on campus and with a renewed emphasis on security Dr. Smith felt like now was the time to ensure that these policies are understood. Registered volunteers are those who work with students in unsupervised settings doing things like tutoring or coaching. Registered volunteers must be properly vetted by the district and have state police and FBI background checks. Visitors on campus do not have to have background checks because in most cases they serve on a short term basis and are supervised by licensed staff members. Visitors may come on campus to read to a class or help serve holiday meals in the cafeteria. The policies are available on the school website under State Required Information, Section 6, policy numbers 6.4 and 6.5.

Vehicle and bus insurance was next on the agenda and only one bid was received. The board approved the bid of $19,064.60 by Farm Bureau Insurance.

The board then approved the 2022/2023 petty cash for each campus in the amount of $200.00.

The administrators at each school the presented the board with changes to the student handbook. Most of which were simple clarification and language changes. Notably at MMS were changes to the dress code and the drug screening policy. As well as changes in student make up work that would allow them to check out chrome books to complete that work. Plus a new policy dealing with students trading,buying or selling personal items on campus.
Mena High School had the most changes. Including new graduation requirements beginning with the class of 2026. They will be the first class at MHS that will be required to have one credit of computer science to graduate. Changes to summer school include extending it to three weeks with a maximum of eighty four hours of instruction. This will allow students to earn their full grade from summer school as opposed to factoring in their grades from the regular school year. The student council and the student executive council suggested a new emphasis on the dress code and added consequences. Changes were made on the device use policy to mirror the policies on the other Mena campuses. A new exemption policy for semester exams was also added to the handbook that would allow students with certain grades and number of absences to forego final exams if they choose to. Finally in the extracurricular handbook a levels of infraction and levels of discipline section was added. The board approved all the changes. The handbooks will be available to read on the school website at a later date.

The board then approved the Act 1120 Report. This requires a school district board of directors to review and approve by a written resolution an increase in salary of five percent (5%) or more for a school district employee.

Dr. Smith then asked the board to allow him the flexibility to adjust reimbursement rates for employees in light of increased gas prices and to other expenses. The board took it one step further by suggesting that the district follow the General Services Administration table for reimbursements. Smith agreed and the change passed with little discussion.

In Personnel the board accepted the resignation of Mathew Sandifer. Restructured the contract of Kristi Wilson from 200 days to 190 days. New hires included:

Brooke Maechler – LPN at MMS
Rose Branch – Bus Driver
Trevor Humphry – Head Baseball, Assistant Football as well as HHE and MMS Teacher
Jennifer Philpot – Behavior Support Paraprofessional LDE