Purdy school board sets graduation date

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

First use of storm shelter provides ideas for improvements

The Purdy school board settled on a date for graduation and took personnel action recently.

With considerable reluctance, board members agreed to set graduation for May 12, on Mother's Day, for the second year in a row. The time was slated for 2 p.m.

Principal Derek Banwart walked board members through the various conflicts, including the baseball district competition on May 10 and track sectionals on May 11, where several Purdy athletes are likely to compete. The state track meet will be on May 17 and 18, as well as the softball state competition. Banwart said May 19 remained an option, with the last day of classes on May 17.

“We'll hear from parents that [senior] students should have a week off,” Superintendent Steven Chancellor said. “We could let them out on May 6 and give them two weeks off. One parent said last year, 'Thanks for having graduation on Sunday. I didn't have to worry about where my kid is tonight.' This is a ceremony. It's not what makes them 'graduated.'”

Chancellor added the baccalaureate service will be held in the new performing arts center. Graduation will still be held in the gym, giving parents better options for moving around and securing photos.

In personnel action, board members accepted resignations from Lacey Nelson, middle school and high school math teacher, and Kendale Ellis, special education process coordinator. This district will also advertise to fill the Spanish teacher vacancy. Deborah Lay was placed on administrative leave in October and terminated at the end of the first semester. Chancellor said a long-time substitute is leading the class for the rest of the year.

No action was taken on rehiring administrators other than the superintendent, which is the traditional routine for the February meeting. Chancellor said the board would address that and hire certified staff for next year at its March meeting.

Recent severe weather provided the first opportunity for the district to use its new performing arts center for its designed purpose, as a storm shelter. Chancellor reported between 50 and 60 people turned out after sirens sounded at 11 p.m. Those who came lived within a few blocks of the building. Many had no TV or cell phones to check on the status of the storm and just wanted to go somewhere safe. In general, he said, everything went well. Some people brought their dogs, which he really didn't want in the shelter, but the prime goal was to get everyone in safely and worry about other issues later.

Chancellor also found the company working with the district had not been able to unlock the doors of the shelter automatically when the sirens sounded. He was finding a way to correct that. Both he and firemen showed up to take charge.

Without any distinguishing garb, Chancellor said people had difficulty distinguishing who was in command. Many wanted to stay in the glass enclosed lobby, and he had to direct them back into the concrete shelter itself. Chancellor met with Fire Chief Nick Mercer and Bo Prock, mayor and also fireman, about finding vests for managers of the shelter to wear.

He found the shelter would benefit from having a TV and weather radio in it, which went on his list of additions. He decided some first aid supplies, along with to-go bags that could help calm more nervous people.

The building lost power on its north side. Chancellor found that section had not been connected to the generator and he had that corrected. Internet service in the building also ceased. The district's internet runs into Kay Wright's business classroom in the high school and jumps from there to other locations, including the storm shelter. Chancellor planned to contact Mediacom and possibly have that switched to the shelter as the primary contact.

Chancellor expressed concern that the 911 system had instituted a new policy of having sirens sound for three minutes in case of a tornado, take a three minute break, then sound again. He felt that strategy confusing and problematic for the public. He stayed well after the storm had passed until people felt comfortable going home, since power had gone down between Purdy and Monett.

On March 8, representatives from FEMA planned to conduct their final walk-through of the shelter. Once approved, a “stack of documents” will be mailed for the district to sign to complete the requirements for funding on the building.

In other business, Associate Principal Mindi Gates reported the superintendent of the state AmeriCorps program visited Purdy to conduct the major review required for renewing the grant every five years, which runs approximately $80,000. She said the superintendent interviewed program head Renae Neill and individual reading coaches.

Gates explained how the reading coaches do more than simply read with children. The coaches have become an integral part of the district's reading to intervention program for kindergarten through fifth grade. After the review, she said the superintendent called Purdy's program “extraordinary and impeccable.”

Banwart reported 28 students took advantage of the high school's preparation for the ACT exam, with 24 students showing up for all four sessions.

Prom will be held on April 27 at the Villa D'Alpine in Marionville again this year.

Board members heard a presentation from former teacher Gerry Wass, accompanied by former principal Bob Vice, who still play a role in running the recycling program based at the school. With the loss of the Spanish teacher, the program, run by the Spanish Club, lost its adult supervision outside of community volunteers, resulting in turning back to Wass and Vice for help.

Wass noted recycling remains a marginal business nationwide. In hopes of combining it with another business to create a sustainable business model, Wass presented board members with photos of what he called a riparian repair business, developed through consulting with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This involved the manufacture of baskets that could be anchored in streams to catch debris washed by erosion into small streams. The baskets had been tested on the farm of Ted Daily.

With a product to sell, Wass hoped to generate income that could be used to pay again pay for a supervisor, and for students who participate in a major way. At present, he said, students volunteer for a year or two, then are generally lost to the workforce without any hope of earning through the program. Wass hoped the two businesses together would have enough strength to support each other.

The district received $8,400 in rebate money from Empire District Electric in the course of its operation. That money was set aside in an escrow fund, controlled by the school. Wass asked the board to consider using that money as start-up funds for the expanded business. Board President Todd Schallert said the board would review the proposal and let him know.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: