Blytheville board keeps mask policy

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

During a special meeting Monday night, the Blytheville School Board voted unanimously to continue the mask mandate.

Blytheville superintendent Bobby Ashley told the board because Gov. Asa Hutchinson lifted the mask mandate, it had three choices: continue the policy, eliminate it or modify it.

In the first in-person meeting since the pandemic began, Ashley recommended keeping the policy, and the board agreed.

Meanwhile, after a lengthy discussion, the board tabled a proposal from Solution Tree of $46,500 for an assessment that would be used to collect data for the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Summit in June.

Last month, the board approved the June 2-4 PLC Summit, which will cost around $24,000.

All teachers in the district will be trained in PLC.

Ashley touted the success of PLC in the Primary School, which received a PLC grant three years ago.

He said the assessment will provide important data for the Summit and without it Solution Tree would go in blind for the intense June training, as it provides information on where teachers are.

“I really do see the glimmer of hope through Solution Tree,” Ashley said, pointing out the Primary’s participation through the grant has shown improved test scores when the students move up to third grade.

He added the state has given “a ringing endorsement” of Solution Tree as well.

The assessment would be paid for with federal ESSER funds; Blytheville has $17 million in the coronavirus relief funds.

Board member Desmond Hammett questioned the cost of $15,500 each for the elementary, middle school and high school, saying for $46,500 the district could hire someone to do the training itself. He suggested the district seek proposals from other companies who do similar work.

Responding to board member Tracey Ritchey, Ashley said the money covered only the two-day assessment as the Solution Tree would go to each building and gather data.

“I don’t have enough to be sold on it,” Hammett said. Other board members agreed they needed more information.

Board president Erin Carrington suggested tabling the issue until the board had more information and it ultimately voted to do so.

Ashley said curriculum director Sally Cooke would provide more information and possibly a representative of Solution Tree could speak to the board.

In other news, the board revised the 2021-22 school calendar to change Oct. 18 from fall break to an instruction day after the original calendar was one day short of the state requirement.

The board also unanimously approved personnel recommendations.

They include:

the appointments of BES teacher Jennifer Pearce and maintenance employee Willie Westmoreland;

— the retirement of teacher Jack Rollins, social worker Shirley Byrd, paraprofessional Loretta McKissic, and maintenance employee Howard Waterford;

the resignations of teachers Caleb Crawford, Breanna Franklin, Vickie Ratliff and Judson Smith and library/media specialist Chance Winn.