PRAIRIE GROVE – Shawn Witt, who is in charge of safety for the Prairie Grove school district, recently had good news to share with the school board.
This good news, he said, was probably the “highlight of my career at Prairie Grove.”
Prairie Grove was awarded a Federal COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grant by the US Department of Justice’s School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP).
“We never applied for it, and we were told we were wasting our time,” Witt said, adding that he and school officials were told not to ” bother with it” because they wouldn’t get it .
Witt said he applied for approximately $480,000 in grants. Two projects were dropped from the application, but the school still received $181,000 in grants for the other projects.
Witt said the district plans to use the grant to purchase seven radar speed limit signs, 45 security cameras, shatterproof security film for glass throughout the district, school bus routing/transportation software and bus security cameras.
“I think it’s going to be a really good opportunity for our district,” he said. “There is still a lot of paperwork to be done and we will work on it. Hopefully we can start these projects very soon.”
Witt said the grant accounts for 75% of the cost and the school will be responsible for 25%. The total cost of projects awarded to Prairie Grove is estimated at $241,499. The $181,000 is the 75 percent federal match. The district’s share is $60,000.
Superintendent Reba Holmes gave Witt all credit for the work he did to apply for the grant and to provide the information required for the grant.
Witt, in turn, credited the school resource officers and others for pulling a lot of information from her records to help with the grant application.
School districts and other organizations from 44 states received one of the grants, including 14 school districts in Arkansas, according to the COPS website. In addition to Prairie Grove, the Lincoln Consolidated School District received a $90,000 scholarship. Overall, the Department of Justice awarded approximately $72 million in COPS grants.
In other news at the Oct. 18 meeting, Witt, who is also chief information officer, said the district had restructured the technology department because of the new school and student growth. Now some of the staff will be housed in the school buildings instead of in the administrative office in downtown Prairie Grove.
There will be dedicated IT staff at the building level, Witt said.
“It’s been working really well so far.”
As a further action, the school board approved an administrative recommendation to amend the district’s expulsion policy.
The policy creates a new body, called the Appeals Review Board, to hear an appeal from a parent whose child has been recommended for expulsion. The panel would include three building managers from the county. This committee would hear from the administrator recommending the expulsion and from the parents, students or other representatives.
After the hearing, the review board would meet privately to discuss the situation and make a recommendation to the superintendent on whether to agree, disagree, or amend the recommendation with the expulsion.
Joenks said the final decision on the appeal will be made by the superintendent. If the recommendation is that the school should be expelled, it goes before the school board. Parents would still have the right to request a hearing before the panel.
Joenks said the procedure has been used in three cases and all seem to like it.
“It takes the pressure off the superintendent to do all the investigations,” Joenks said.
In the first part of the conference, Melanie Nations, gifted coordinator, reported on the gifted support program and its annual evaluation, which is required by the state.
Some ways the program hopes to grow this year are by increasing visibility, providing more information at school board meetings, and showcasing student projects. Another goal is to look at more courses that offer college credit and more advanced placement classes in high school.
On the positive side of the assessment, which comes from stakeholder comments, everyone agrees that the gifted and talented program has had a positive impact on students, helping them focus on creative and critical thinking skills. The comments also show that the gifted and talented program is positively influencing students’ attitudes towards the school, Nations said.