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City school board discusses TSBA legislation, draft calendar, DHS graduation date

Thursday, December 6, 2012

After not having a meeting in the month of November, the Dyersburg School Board met on Monday evening to discuss proposed Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) legislation, the draft calendar for the 2013-2014 school year as well as to recognize student and system successes. The meeting opened with Vice Chairman Joe Yates moving that the board accept the consent items including the minutes from the board's previous meeting in October. The motion was seconded by board member Dr. Scott Self and unanimously approved. After the consent items were approved, Chairwoman Amy Heckethorn turned the meeting over to Yates to conduct the election of a board chair for the 2012-2013 year.

"Since Amy has done such a wonderful job I move that we keep her as chair of this board," said Yates, whose motion was seconded by Self and unanimously approved by the board.

Yates turned the meeting back over to Heckethorn, who conducted the vice-chair elections. Board member Hubert Jones moved that the board retain Yates as vice chairman, a motion that was again seconded by Self and approved without opposition by the board.

The board moved on to discuss TSBA's legislative packet, which included three resolutions that the organization was seeking endorsement of before the items are discussed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2013. The resolutions include:

1. To stand against voucher programs

2. To stand against charter schools

3. To stand against reverting to superintendent elections

City School Superintendent Neel Durbin presented the resolutions to the school board stating that TSBA feels that the first two "would have a negative impact on education as we know it now". In addition, he commented that reverting to elected superintendents would cause the role of the board and the role of the superintendent to intertwine and intermingle.

"But basically when you have a publically elected superintendent, our one main power is gone as a school board," said Yates. "Our main (role) is to hire (the superintendent) and make sure you're doing what you're supposed to be doing."

"It's true that the act of appointing superintendents was the cornerstone of the Education Reform Act for the state of Tennessee in 1992," interjected Heckethorn. "There are some systems where it is so entrenched that they bring it up every year."

After some discussion on the paperwork of the resolutions, Yates moved that the board endorse the resolutions with school board member Gleyn Twilla adding a second. The motion passed unanimously.

Before continuing with the agenda Yates asked about a news report that said that select Tennessee schools were looking at adding 300 hours to the school year. Durbin explained that the report related to a pilot program that a few schools in Tennessee have been rumored to apply for. According to Durbin, the schools that are the focus of that program are the priority schools and Dyersburg city schools has not been invited to be a part of that pilot program.

"And we haven't been invited because we have been successful," said Twilla.

"That's correct," responded Durbin.

Durbin moved on to present a draft of the 2013-2014 calendar to the board. He explained that there were no major changes in the calendar from the current school year, except that everything shifts one day to the left. Self initiated a discussion about why the graduation at Dyersburg High School is now on Thursday. Durbin responded that the 2012 senior class voted on the current calendar and it was their preference to have it the Thursday evening before Memorial Day weekend.

"I just think about the families who don't have their immediate families in town, and you throw that graduation in on a Thursday, I would venture to say that it keeps a lot of families from coming to graduation," said Self.

Heckethorn asked what the thought process was behind moving graduation to a Thursday. Durbin responded that there was a lot of thought that went into it as it facilitated teachers turning grades in on time and was the general preference among students.

"I would be curious to see what the senior parents thought," said Self. "As someone that does not have any family within four hours of here and it's going to be a travel day either way, I really wish we could reconsider."

Durbin commented that he was not asking the board to adopt the calendar at the moment as it was still for informational purposes. He said that he would take the comments back to DHS for consideration.

Durbin reported to the board the following academic successes:

* Dyersburg city schools had the ninth highest ACT three-year average scores in the state, and the highest ACT three-year average scores in West Tennessee.

* Dyersburg city schools has the highest TVASS value added in fifth-grade math in the state.

* Dyersburg city schools math value added for K-8 was the sixth highest in the state.

* DHS had the ninth highest math scores for advanced and proficient in the state. This did not count eighth-grade score for Algebra I.

* Dyersburg city schools ranked third in West Tennessee in Math and English TVASS gains through seventh grade and ranked seventh after eighth grade.

* Dyersburg city schools ranks 10th in the state in average classroom teacher salaries.

In other business:

* The board recognized a long list of student successes.

* Lyn Taylor, director of system services, announced to the board the DHS Hall of Honor, which will allow DHS graduates to recognize fellow graduates for their outstanding contributions. Applications can be obtained at the city school central office. Deadline for applications is Friday, Dec. 21.

* Dyersburg Intermediate School received the highest possible score of 99 from the health inspector. All schools received a 97 or better.

* The board unanimously approved board policies on personnel records and student discipline on second hearing on a motion by Yates and a second by school board member Kathy Jones.

* The board approved without opposition board policies on student discrimination, harassment and bullying on first reading on a motion by Twilla and a second by school board member Chastity Pirtle.

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