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MH school board passes proposal to expand Guy Berry

July 16, 2015

Mountain Home School Board met Thursday night to discuss several new agenda items, including the recent closure of the Baxter County Alternative School.

The board voted 7-0 to accept a proposal to expand the alternative learning environment at Guy Berry College and Career Academy. The decision comes after the district learned of a situation July 7 that the Baxter County Alternative School would no longer be in operation. BCAS was found to be unapproved through the Arkansas Department of Education as an authorized operator of the alternative learning environment. The school had been operated by Baxter County Juvenile Services.

The proposal recommends absorbing 35 Mountain Home students, who would have attended BCAS, into the Guy Berry program for the upcoming school year. The first day of school is set for Aug. 18. The plan was approved by the state department Thursday, according to Dr. Jake Long, Mountain Home’s new superintendent.

Thursday’s decision takes into consideration Mountain Home students, but also students from surrounding schools in need of an alternative learning environment. Long explained to the board Thursday that at least four other schools between Baxter and Marion counties have shown interest in the opportunity at Guy Berry.

With more students at Guy Berry, Long also recommended posting job positions for four additional staff and one support staff member. The need for additional staff is subject to change as the district assesses student need.

Jeff Kincade, director of the Guy Berry school, answered questions from the board during the meeting Thursday about the expansion.

“We want to take care of our kids, that’s what we want to do,” Kincade said. “We also want to be good neighbors to our surrounding schools and help them this year. Some of them are interested in starting their own and doing that and if that’s what the case is, that’s fine, but right now we’re just trying to be good stewards of this. What we’re doing right now is we’re expanding it. We’re not changing anything that we do.”

New AD hired

In addition Thursday night, Mountain Home School Board went into executive session to discuss staff recommendations for the upcoming school year.

Mitch Huskey was hired by the board as the district’s newest athletic director. Huskey previously worked as the high school boys’ senior basketball coach at Mountain Home.

Janet Wood held the position and transferred to become a research and development specialist after 11 years as athletic director.

The board also hired six teachers across the district, an assistant principal for Nelson-Wilks-Herron Elementary and a counselor.

Other new business items:

• Superintendent Long recommended revising polices related to duties of the school board secretary, powers and duties of the board, superintendent/board relationship and nepotism. Long says the purpose of the revisions is to keep the Mountain Home school district in compliance with state laws. The board passed the revisions 7-0.

• Long recommended the board to approve a 20-day extension in the research specialist calendar effective for the school year beginning July 1. The board passed the extension 7-0.

• A 2015 resolution related to the school board election was discussed, noting that one candidate has filed for Position 6. The board voted 7-0 to pass the resolution, requesting no polling places to be open on the date of the annual school election held in September, so that the election can be conducted by absentee ballot and early voting only pursuant to state law. The board voted to adopt the resolution, 7-0.

• A petition to transfer a Cotter student to the Mountain Home district was approved by the board 7-0. The transfer was approved by the Cotter School Board in June.

• Mountain Home Kindergarten Principal Vanessa Thomas recommended the elimination of the developmental classroom as an academic intervention. The proposal passed 7-0.

• Devona Pendergrass and Keith Alman presented a new website template for the Mountain Home district. The district hopes to make the new website live to the public by the first day of school in August. Vision Amp Marketing is working on the redesign of the district website.