Beebe tells board about CAE programs

Published 5:17 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Those attending the meeting of the school board for the Picayune Municipal Separate School District last night may have gotten a strong hint at who may be the next superintendent of the school district.

At the end of the meeting during board members’ comments, Duane Wheat mentioned that interim Superintendent Brent Harrell had put in an application for the position. Wheat said the board had tried to get him to apply before, but he had not until this time.

Wheat then noted that most of the district’s administrators were at the meeting and asked if they had come in support of Harrell’s application and asked if any wished to address the board.

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Pat Rutherford, principal at South Side Upper Elementary School said he did and then told to the board of Harrell’s support for students, teachers and administrators.

“I’ll never forget when he interviewed me 20 years. I was really impressed and then the district hired me,” Rutherford said. “He got me out of Gulfport to Picayune and I’m so happy.”

The application process for those wishing to apply for the position is continuing and no vote on the position was taken at last night’s meeting.

Daphne Beebe, angered by some of the on-line comments about the school she directs, came before the Picayune school board last night to tell of the programs at the Center for Alternative Education.

Part of the message she brought to the board is that many of the students are there because of “bad choices” they have made, not because they are “bad kids.” Other students are there at their parents’ request for various reasons.

Beebe said that contrary to on-line postings, all of her teachers are certified and that they have to be by state law. Also, the course work at the school is the same curriculum taught at the high school. Students who attend the school can graduate along with other Picayune students, if they complete the course work as is required of any other student in the Picayune Municipal Separate School District.

“That really bothers me when people spread misinformation and misconceptions about my school,” Beebe said.

The alternative school’s director brought two teachers with her to help explain how some of the course work is presented.

Sedgie Fillingame, a special education teacher who also is certified in art, showed the board and visitors to the meeting a model siege engine from Middle Ages that his students built and explained and showed how both math and language lessons were taught in the process of building the engine.

Palace Spiers brought two of the robots her students are constructing and explained how they are used in teaching the sciences. She said her students are working on robots that she hopes the students can enter in the Vex competition, which is a lower level of the FIRST Robotics competition sponsored by NASA. The science teacher said she now has four teams working on four different robots.

Wednesday morning, Spiers said by telephone that the robotics students currently are scheduled to participate in a robotics competition in Gulfport with the Gulfport school district.

In her closing comments last night, Beebe pointed out that she still has the 2005 Mississippi Teacher of the Year teaching at the alternative school, that students at her school have repaired bicycles for several years and given them to Toys for Tots, are building computers and have produced art mosaics, including one for the local unit of the 890th Engineer Battalion when it returned from Iraq.

The Picayune Memorial High School boys swim team was introduced to the school board following its win in state competition.

Co-principal Christy Pinero told the board that the high school is in the process of developing a larger computer lab so all the students in a class can use it at the same time.

The current lab has 20 computers, while many of the classes have 30 students. The new lab will have 35 computers to be able to handle all the students in a class at the same time, plus a few students from other classes that may need remediation, Pinero said. She asked the board for approval for countertops needed to hold the computers and to be allowed to use, in addition to the 20 computers they already have, 10 computers being donated by Chevron and to be able to move some funds from the software account to be used to purchase five more computers for the lab.

Pinero also asked the board to purchase a license for on-line ACT coaching from the company that produces the test. Pinero said the license, which costs $495 annually, will allow students to practice the test from any computer they have access to, including ones in their homes. The board approved the purchase.

Harrell gave the board a break down of teacher units within the district and warned that the district has 13 classes at the elementary level alone that have the maximum number of students allowed by law. The secondary schools also have some classes with all the students they legally can hold.

He said hiring more teachers may be difficult because the state and nation are facing a teacher shortage.

“For example, we don’t have any student teachers signed up for the second semester and we usually have 10 or 12,” Harrell said.

Principal Vera Beech at Nicholson Elementary School said all three of her kindergarten classes have the maximum number of students at 27 and that many of those students came to her school without ever having “held a color before.” She said it would help her students if the classes could be smaller.

Colors, numbers and basic language skills are taught at the kindergarten level, when students haven’t been taught those skills by their parents at home before ever arriving at school. In classes where most or all students have entered kindergarten, more advanced lessons can be taught.

In other business, the board:

— Approved personnel matters.

— Approved the consent items.

— Approved canceling two 16th section leases, gave Jerry Magee more time to resolve his situation which is mired in an estate settlement, approved payment plans for two other leases.

— Approved the purchase of 15 copiers $93,580.

— Approved advertising for bids for garbage disposal.

— Approved contractual agreements for Early Head Start.

— Approved requests by Nicholson Elementary to build a pavilion on the walking trail and to purchase playground equipment.

— Approved the first reading on a policy allowing only those students not eligible for district transportation to ride their bicycles to school for safety reasons. Harrell said that very few students in the district aren’t eligible for transportation since the district offers in areas not required by law.

— Approved the first readings on revisions to board policies on expenditure of funds/federal funds; petty cash accounts; refreshments/meals at meetings, and food allergies.

— Approved applying for a $100,000 Chevron grant.

— Went into executive session on a discipline appeal, discipline, a parent matter, a student matter, and personnel.