Tech talk gets tense over equipment donations
By Joel Phelps
A conversation about whether to donate unused engineering equipment grew tense Tuesday between a teacher and an administrator.
The Arkadelphia Board of Education had tabled discussion on whether it would donate roughly $180,000 worth of the high school’s now-defunct engineering program to collegiate programs at Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist universities. The topic was tabled earlier this month because of the bare quorum present to make the decision. Jeff Root, noting he is related to the head of the engineering program at Ouachita, recused himself from the discussion then as well as Tuesday.
Since then, the school district’s administration has discussed ways to profit from the equipment. Rendi Currey, administrative assistant, suggested the use of Gov Deals to bid out unwanted school property to other districts. If no bids were received, she said, donating the items could then be an option.
Bud McMillion, instructional facilitator at Arkadelphia High School, reminded the board that the equipment in question was paid for with grant money rather than school district funds. “If you did sell it, you’ll be selling something that somebody else bought for you,” he said.
Tammy Barger, the school district’s business manager, argued that once an item is given to the school district it becomes the property of that district.
“That’s true,” McMillion agreed, “but where is the money going to go? If you sell the equipment who gets the money?”
“The board could make a decision if they have a particular thing they want to do,” Barger replied. “In the time I’ve been here we’ve never gotten a great deal of money out of anything we’ve tried to sell that was used.” Barger indicated she had no say in the matter but noted there were ways to sell the property.
“That didn’t answer the question of where the money would go,” McMillion said. “What account would the money go into?”
“Probably my personal bank,” Barger quipped. “I don’t know, sir. This is the board. They make that decision. When the money comes in I receipt it into the general fund unless I’m told specifically to do something special with it.”
“Would the high school get access to the money?”
“That’s what you’d have to talk to [the board] about.”
Casey Motl, presiding over the meeting, joked that the “outdoor heat has seemingly found its way indoors” before asking McMillion if he had an estimate for the value of the depreciated property. McMillion fired back that he was no expert at determining the value of equipment he’s never sold, and recommended “hiring an expert” if the board wanted to know its worth.
The conversation went in different directions among board members and administrators until Kenneth Harris motioned to donate the equipment, followed by a swift second from Clark Tennyson. More discussion ensued until Harris called his motion to question. The motion carried unanimously by a vote of hands.
After an executive session that lasted about 20 minutes, the board reconvened in public to approve the following personnel recommendations:
Sydney Miller, first grade teacher, Perritt
Shaylee Marshall, fourth grade teacher, Peake
Cheyenne Parker, special education teacher, Perritt
Magen Atkinson, secondary math/physics teacher, AHS
Brett Serviss, biology/chemistry teacher, AHS
Ryan Wilkerson, assistant Band director
Carlos Udave, assistant Band director
Sidney Medley, middle school math teacher, Goza
Sharonda Bell, special education paraprofessional
Phyllis DeLoach, special education paraprofessional
Jodie Daniell, from instructional facilitator at Peake to dyslexia interventionist
Kathy Crow, from third grade teacher at Peake to ESOL interventionist
Incoming Superintendent Nikki Thomas will be paid $140,000 per year on an annual contract. Upon receiving a doctorate, her annual salary will increase to $150,000.
Thomas will also receive benefits such as a district-owned vehicle, laptop and cell phone.
An emotional goodbye
In her final report as superintendent, an emotional Karla Neathery thanked the board, staff and parents for “taking a chance on me. I certainly enjoyed working with you and for you. I appreciate your support, and your respect, and your professionalism more than you’ll ever know, and I wish you the best.”
The school board and the dozen or so educators in attendance began applauding, then everyone stood and continued their applause as Neathery tried to hold back tears.
The board heard a facilities update on the new Peake Elementary School campus.
It approved two memorandums of understanding: one renewed an annual contract with OrthoArkansas for an athletic trainer, and one renewed the school district’s agreement with the Arkadelphia Police Department for use of school resource officers. The possibility of hiring a third SRO for its elementary campuses was discussed, but neither party has finalized the details. It was said there should be a third SRO in place by the time the school year begins.
The school board tabled approval of the K-12 student handbook for a final revision. Harris took issue with some of the wording in the district-wide handbook (as opposed to a handbook distributed at each campus), saying some items that address older students may not be age-appropriate for younger students.
The board OK’d the purchase of Chromebooks for students.
Principals from each campus delivered their School Improvement Plans to the board. The board gave tentative approval to those plans and may revisit them once Thomas begins her role as superintendent.