HOPE — The Hope Public Schools Board met in cyberspace April 20 for the first time in district history.
All seven board members met in a Zoom conference hosted by HPS Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart. The online meeting was necessitated by the closure of public school facilities and restrictions on “congregant” events during the COVID-19 illness.
The hour-long session was the first meeting at which Zone 3 Representative Margaret Moss was seated. Moss was appointed to the board March 16, the day Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson initially suspended on-campus operation of public schools in Arkansas as a result of the COVID-19 illness. Moss was named to replace retiring Board President Willie Buck Jr. who chose not to seek re-election.
New Board President Linda Haynes called the meeting to order from her home, as each board member “chimed in” to the virtual session.
Haynes took the opportunity to note the public response she has received concerning the dedication of HPS teachers and staff during the closure.
“I’ve been really impressed with all we have seen from our teachers and everybody else,” she said. “Teachers, particularly, have been working hard; and, there is a good public feeling about the staff of the Hope Public Schools.”
Haynes said she has had personal contacts with parents throughout the closure period reflecting pride in the manner HPS teachers on all campuses have responded to continue the quality of education for their students. She said she was delighted to see teachers using online technology and other means not only to stay connected with students, but to help them with assigned work.
“We are ahead of many of our neighboring districts,” Haynes said.
That relationship was evident in reports by principals. Five of the six campus principals were able to participate in the online session, all noting that teacher contact with students has been consistent, in most cases at least two weekly with each student.
“It’s very exciting to see teachers going out of their way to help students during this time,” Clinton Primary School Principal Ashlea Stewart said.
She announced new Alternative Method of Instruction materials will be distributed at CPS on Tuesday, April 28, as will items which were ordered for spring fundraisers.
Hope Academy of Public Service Principal Dr. Carol Ann Duke said 95 percent of the AMI materials distributed to date have been completed by HAPS students. Dr. Duke also announced work is being done to facilitate a virtual end-of-year awards ceremony for HAPS.
Yerger Middle School Principal Mike Radebaugh said YMS teachers have used Zoom conferencing and email to remain in contact with each other and students. Radebaugh said AMI packets have been distributed with sufficient lesson material through May 22.
Creative Action Team School Director Cleytus Coulter said CATS teachers have been in contact with each student at least twice weekly.
Hope High School Principal Bill Hoglund announced a “virtual” graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 will be conducted May 29 at 6 p.m.
Hoglund said details regarding the event were being sent by email to each senior student, and the HHS Booster Club is helping to facilitate the event.
“Then, sometime during the summer, if there is a chance to gather, we will turn the lights on at Hammons Stadium and let them take a picture in their regalia,” Hoglund said. “This brings some closure to our students.”
Hart backed-up that promise.
“When a time comes to be able to gather, we will do everything we can in our power to do something together,” he said.
The board unanimously adopted a resolution which reflects the emergency nature of the district’s operations during the closure for audit purposes.
“This spells out what we are doing during the course of the shutdown,” Hart said.
In other actions April 20, the board:
—Adopted a number of Arkansas School Board Association model policy updates.
—Approved a one-time expenditure of $41,600 for Waterford instructional software for PreK-4 at Clinton Primary School.
—Approved a one-time federal funds purchase of calculators for HHS grades 9-10 at a cost of $31,729.
—Adopted the annual district financial audit report.
—Approved personnel recommendations after a short executive session.