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City school board receives graduation report, construction update

Thursday, October 4, 2012

City School Superintendent Neel Durbin and Chairwoman Amy Heckethorn discuss the renovations at DHS and its effect on student learning at the city school board meeting on Monday evening.
Dyersburg High School's graduation rate improved by about 10 percent as reported by City Schools Superintendent Neel Durbin at the Dyersburg School Board monthly meeting on Monday, Oct. 1. Durbin had previously commented that last year's rate, which was reported at 84 percent, was a statistical aberration and the significant improvement in this year's rate shows that DHS is back on track.

"The new rate is at 94 percent, which is closer to what it should be," said Durbin.

The board also received a detailed update on the DHS renovations and how the renovation is affecting traffic and student learning. Durbin reported that the construction is progressing slightly ahead of schedule. DHS is not only working on changes to its fašade, but also to install new HVAC systems, which had not been changed in over 40 years. The old boiler and chillers will be kept as redundant systems in the event that the new ones require maintenance or break for some reason. The city school system expects the new systems to save the school quite a bit of money in energy savings.

"We hope we can pick up about $40,000 a year (in energy savings)," said Durbin.

The city school system took out a 10-year loan through the Energy Efficient Schools Initiative earlier this year to be able to replace the school's HVAC system. The loan requires payments totaling $23,000 a year, but if estimates are correct on the energy savings, the city school system will still save money.

School Board Chairwoman Amy Heckethorn asked Durbin how disruptive the noise from the construction was.

"It depends on the individual," said Durbin. "It's really not overly invasive. It's more disruptive to the teachers than it is to the students."

Durbin said that an open-house event would be held sometime in November to celebrate the opening of the library and mark the completion of the new addition.

Before moving on, School Board Vice Chairman Joe Yates asked Durbin about the new traffic patterns at the high school and how they were working out. Durbin responded that they were working better and that everyone seemed to be getting accustomed to the new traffic flow. He also added that the new pattern does not seem to have affected students being on time, as it has not been used thus far as a late excuse.

Durbin moved on to update the board on the surveying being done to the campus for the community safe-room building as well as the primary school's bullying program. Durbin explained to the board that because the safe room is being placed on the high school campus the school system does have some say on certain items such as placing the building in such a way that some of the older oak trees would not have to be eliminated.

Durbin reported that the primary school is currently using two bullying programs: Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and Stop, Walk and Talk. Durbin says that communication will help alleviate bullying. However, educators are addressing a different generation of bulling with cyber-bullying. According to Durbin, there are very few physical confrontations at the city schools.

In other business, Heckethorn acknowledged the long list of student successes, which included:

* Sydney McNeil won the award for the Society for In Vitro Biology at the West Tennessee Science and Engineering Regional Fair last spring.

* Will Clifft was selected as a National Merit Semifinalist. Emily McKee and Maria Yousuf were named commended students.

* Anna Claire Sewell was selected as an All-State Cheerleader, the only female from Tennessee. Here selection was based on GPA, ACT and teacher recommendations along with an interview and tryouts.

* The DMS volleyball team won the WTAC conference tournament and advance to the sectional tournament play in Memphis.

In other business:

* In the ACT report, DHS is ahead of the state average of 16 percent of students being college and career ready. Twenty-three percent of DHS students are college and career ready.

* Heckethorn reported that she received a letter from TSSAA recognizing DHS for not having any reported incidents of unsportsmanlike conduct at athletic events during the 2011-2012 school year.

* The board approved without opposition board policies related to sick leave, student wellness, discipline procedures, procedural due process and AIDS. The policies were approved on a motion by Yates and a second by board member Dr. Scott Self. It was the second reading of the policies.

* The board conducted a first reading on policies related to personnel records, student discipline, and evaluations among others. A total of 19 policies were reviewed and according to Durbin all changes made were in accordance with state law or Tennessee School Board Association suggestions. The first reading was unanimously approved on a motion by Yates and a second by board member Gleyn Twilla.

* Durbin gave a report on his attendance at a recent conference hosted by the Gates Foundation. Durbin reported that the Gates Foundation has found a lot of techniques that they are trying to have endorsed by the state. Of interest was the foundation's report that there is no correlation between the number of years one has been teaching and effectiveness as a teacher. Also the foundation found that there was no correlation to the number of degrees a teacher holds and effectiveness as a teacher.

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