The Benton School Board accepted its most recent audit results, but rejected a suggested policy change and a memorandum of understanding with the Arch Ford Education Services Cooperative.
“It is my pleasure to present an audit report that is a favorable one,” said Dr. Mike Cobb. “(It) had no findings, no weak areas that I could find which is commendable considering what we’ve been through for the last 15 months or so.”
According to Cobb, the balance for the general fund is $12.3 million in cash which compares favorably to the $11.3 million for the prior year. The district had $50.4 million in general fund revenue and $40 million in general fund expenses. Before any transfer of funds, the general fund achieved close to $9.7 million.
“For those who are curious how this tracks against the budget,” Cobb said “You will see that the $50.4 million in revenue exceeded $48.8 million that was budgeted for it and the expenditures were a little bit under budget.”
The board rejected a suggested policy change that would have altered the way that honor graduates are chosen. The changes would have mandated that students on the accelerated math track must take pre-calculus while regular math track students could take pre-calculus or AP statistics.
Changes would also have been made to the science course requirements requiring that one of the three required science courses must be honors/pre-AP chemistry, Honors/pre-AP physics or honors anatomy and physiology. AP art studio or AP computer science A would have been added to the list of core elective options.
Benton High School Principal Curt Barger said that the suggested changes were to allow for more options for students.
Board member Randy Mitchell said that his concern about the changes was really a procedural one because the new options had already been presented to the students without the matter coming before the board for approval and questioned Barger on why that choice was made.
Barger stated that it was an oversight on his part that it had occurred and that he was aware that policy changes should have been presented to the board first. He also added that middle school and junior high students were shown the new options as they made their plans on what classes to take and what track they would choose.
“It just seems to me that you’re going to discourage kids for signing up for the accelerated track when they have more options if they don’t when it comes to the math part,” Mitchell said.
Barger disagreed saying said that kids who sign up for the accelerated track in middle school do so because they want to get to a point in high school where they can take the upper level classes that they would not able to take if they stayed on the regular math track.
Mitchell said that he believed the policy was awkwardly worded and that he felt that not enough time was spent on considering the ramifications of the changes.
“It didn’t come through the proper procedures,” Mitchell said.
When board member Paul Childress asked about the timeline for approval of the changes, Barger said that he would like to policy to go ahead and be approved that way any class scheduling issues could be rectified.
Childress also asked how students would be affected if the policy was not approved during Monday night’s meeting.
Barger stated that any student who will be a senior next school year who wanted to be an honor graduate who had signed up for AP statistics would have to alter their schedule to take AP calculus instead. He also added that the change to add AP statistics as an option for the regular math track was made after consulting school counselors. He was also prepared if the policy did not pass and has consulted with the counselors that any student who has chosen AP statistics and desired to be an honor graduate would have the option to amend their schedule.
Ultimately, the board chose to reject the policy as worded, but left the option open for calling a special meeting to consider a reworded policy brought through proper channels.
The board also rejected a memorandum of understanding between the Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative and the district to partner with the Arch Ford School Non-Traditional Program(s).The purpose of the Arch Ford Non-Traditional Program(s) is to implement non-traditional learning services for participating districts to serve the needs of at-risk students referred by their sending districts.
Originally, brought before the board during its April meeting, the topic was tabled in order for the board members to learn more.
Items approved by the board include:
• The approval of a contract disclosure for Ronda Wagner.
• The approval of a matching funds request for Caldwell Elementary.
• The approval of the payment for the new Freshman Academy Sign.
• The approval for the purchase of six buses.
• The approval of two new staff positions including a Bright Futures/Social Worker and an Occupational Therapy Assistant.
A number of Panther Pride Awards were also given during Monday night’s meeting. See future editions of The Saline Courier for award coverage and more from the meeting.