By John R. Schirmer
Nashville News-Leader staff
The Nashville School Board Monday voted to renew the career coach position at Nashville High School for the 2017-18 academic year. The position is made possible through an agreement between the district and the University of Arkansas-Cossatot.
Under the arrangement, Career Coach Amy Westfall is an employee of Cossatot. Part of her salary and benefits are paid through a grant which Cossatot receives each year to fund the position in Nashville and four other districts. Nashville pays for the other half of the package, amounting to $25,168.
Westfall is completing her first year as career coach. She works with students on scholarship applications, college admission, other financial aid such as Pell Grants and work-study, military enlistment, career choices after high school and numerous other areas.
NHS Counselor Crystal Evans told the board that “Mrs. Westfall has been very helpful. Students are served more efficiently by having her.”
Westfall also works with students at Nashville Junior High.
“I recommend we continue the position,” Superintendent Doug Graham told board members. “It’s a big benefit to NHS students, and I see it getting more and more beneficial. After one year of seeing what the position is capable of, I see the role expanding.”
Graham sad the district shares the cost with Cossatot. “She’s an employee of Cossatot,” and her contract is with Cossatot. “We pay part of the stipend.”
Board member Randy Elliott said the district receives “a good bang for our buck on what we’re getting. I’m on board with it.”
Board member Monica Clark asked Evans about the need for a career coach. “Were you unable to do your job before we had the position?”
Evans outlined a number of areas in which Westfall had helped. “She’s been able to get $5,000 more in local scholarships. I’m spending more time dealing with mental health, suicide risk, depression, anxiety. My job is to be sure these students are able to make it through the day. Some are struggling.
“I did it to the best of my ability,” Evans said, referring to some of the responsibilities taken on by Westfall. “I was there from early in the morning until 7 or 8 p.m. and didn’t make a dent in the workload. The superintendent and principals handle what they can when I’m overbooked,” including scheduling and E-School.
“Mr. Graham and I have had multiple discussions of mental health issues” among students, Evans said. “It’s part of an educator’s heart. You never feel as though you can reach everybody and fix everybody.”
Board president David Hilliard said he has “seen the benefits of having Mrs. Westfall” because his daughter Brittany is a senior who plans to attend college out of state. “She’s getting us the help we need to pay for it,” he said of Westfall’s efforts.
Board member Miles Mitchell said the district received many benefits by spending about $25,000 to help more than 400 students at high school plus those at junior high.
The board voted 4-0 to renew the partnership with Cossatot. Those in favor included Hilliard, Elliott, Mitchell and Mark Canaday. Clark abstained.
Julie Rhodes from Cossatot attended the meeting and fielded questions from board members about Westfall’s salary and duties.
The board accepted eight resignations during the meeting, including the following:
Leah Hainen, elementary teacher
Jerry Baker, junior high teacher and softball coach
Tina Baker, elementary teacher
Terry Pratt, bus driver
Lisa Wesson, high school English
Liz Bulloch, junior high art
Vickie Beene, literacy coach
Marilyn Britt, elementary secretary
All are effective at the end of the year or at the end of their contracts.
The board filled 11 positions, either through new hires or by transferring personnel within the district. Employment of staff included the following:
Carolanne Pinegar, high school business replacing Stephanie Davis
John Mark Tollett, transferred to high school math
Lauren Volarvich, transferred to high school English replacing Lisa Wesson
Jamie Hughes, transferred to junior high English replacing Lauren Volarvich
Lakan McAdams, transferred from primary to elementary, large third grade class moving to fourth grade
Carmen Lingo, junior high math replacing John Mark Tollett
Miranda Johnson, elementary teacher replacing Tina Baker
Hannah Topar, elementary teacher replacing Allyson Dixon
Rachelle Erwin, elementary teacher replacing Leah Hainen
Ashton Short, elementary teacher replacing Jamie Hughes
Sherry Spurling, bus driver replacing Terry Pratt
Positions which remain open include nurse at junior high and high school with RN preferred; literacy coach for grades 4-10, one elementary teaching position, one secretary.
Bernie Hellums was re-employed as math coach, and Latito Williams was re-employed as elementary school principal.
The board re-employed all remaining certified and classified personnel for 2017-18.
“At this time last year, we had four resignations,” Graham said. Counting those from the March meeting, “We’ve had 11 now. Last year was light.”
Graham said he may call a special meeting to deal with additional hirings for 2017-18.
Board members discussed a number of other items during a meeting lasting more than one hour.
Graham said the classroom project at primary is nearly completed. “We lack hanging three doors and waxing floors,” he said. Dry erase boards, tack boards and map rails have been installed. Two Smartboards remain to be put in place.
“We’ll get signed off on the primary project” shortly, according to Graham.
The board approved a sick leave policy for certified and classified personnel which allows staff members to volunteer to donate sick leave days “in a catastrophic situation.”
Under the policy, an employee who has exhausted his or her leave days may apply for the program. Other employees may donate one or two days toward a maximum of 20 for the affected staff member.
“It only applies if the situation has been deemed catastrophic. We urge our employees to be smart with their days and not give away days they don’t have,” Graham said.
The policy “doesn’t address retirees with 70, 80, 90 unused days. We may address that later.”
Board members approved the policy 5-0.
Graham provided a district an update on the facilities master plan. He discussed the need for a new agri building and for a new roof at primary school.
A bill enacted during the recent legislative session allows districts to keep only 20 percent of their budget in an operating balance. Nashville has about 25 percent. “We’ll have to do something with more than $800,000,” Graham said, including the possibility of putting the money into the district’s building fund.
The $800,000 would pay much of the cost of a new agri building, Graham said, or it could be used on the primary roof.
“We need to do some serious consideration,” he told the board.
Graham will discuss the facilities plan at the May board meeting.