Hope School Board Spans Holiday with Initiatives

HOPE – The Hope Public Schools Board spanned the Presidents’ Day holiday with meetings to consider two initiatives; one for the district’s power usage and the other for contracted Alternative Learning Environment services.

The board meet Feb. 14 in special session with John Coleman, regional business development director for Entegrity, an electrical power and services provider, and with Chet Howland, financial projects manager of the Arkansas Energy Office of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

Coleman outlined a power usage and savings plan for the district based upon 2013 legislation which allows school districts to negotiate and contract for power usage and power delivery services.

The board approved the issuance of a Request for Proposal from Entegrity to formalize the process by which both may eventually enter into a contract to develop a power/water usage savings plan for the district.

“We will come back with a menu of items,” Coleman said. “We’re going to bundle all these things together into a project; and, in the end, we will be working to save on your energy costs.”

He said the district can achieve economies of scale that technology provides today which were not available in the past. Coleman said the company will conduct a power usage “audit” of the district’s facilities and propose new efficiencies, the savings from which will actually pay for the $60,000 contract.

“We’re going to show you different ways to structure this and what the opportunities are,” he said.

Responding to questions about a similar project at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana campuses, Coleman said the Entegrity plan is different from past energy savings plans used by the district in that it begins with energy savings, addresses water usage, and may ultimately include a solar power generation component for the district.

The power “audit” will require about 120 days, he said. Depending upon the recommendations by Entegrity, Coleman said the district could save some $40,000 to $130,000 annually in power and water usage costs.

He said, depending upon the district’s direction, Entegrity can engage both Southwestern Electric Power Company and Hope Water and Light Corp. in the process to realize mutual benefits to the entire community of Hope.

The proposal follows an earlier discussion by the board of the feasibility of using solar power, which Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart said is considered something “down the road.”

In its regular session Feb. 17, the board heard a presentation by Yerger Middle School Principal Mike Radebaugh concerning a change in the Creative Action Team School (CATS) campus model.

Radebaugh proposed contracting for Alternative Learning Environment services on the CATS campus through the Arch Ford Consortium, which currently serves some 63 school districts in Arkansas with similar services.

Radebaugh presented comparisons which demonstrated the current $499,000 operating cost for the ALE campus can be essentially neutralized fiscally through a contract with Arch Ford that would retain current faculty and staff and offer almost identical benefits at higher salaries.

He said creating a HUB component through the Arch Ford model will help alleviate anticipated growth at CATS through attendant services offered to area school districts.

The board agreed to consider the proposal after learning more from area school districts already using the contract model.

The board also adopted a proposal by HPS Technology Coordinator Jeff Madlock to shift to a true one-to-one Chromebook usage model on the Hope High School campus.

Madlock said the $79,932 package for 300 new Chromebook computers, backpacks, licensing, and three-year damage warranty was a “bargain.”

“Six years ago, this would have gotten you 139 ipads,” he said.

The customized laptop computers will also be protected with Go Guardian software, will use Google for Education applications, and will be permanently tagged for identification and inventory. Madlock said the current stock of cart-based” laptops will be used elsewhere as needed.

“It meets a lot of needs for us,” he said.

In other actions, the board:

–Approved the purchase of budget management software.

–Adopted a state-mandated minimum wage increase for maintenance employees through the district’s contract with Aramark Building Management.

–Approved a lawn care contract with Pro Cut Lawn Care.

–Adopted an official school calendar for the 2020-2021 academic year.

–Approved a facilities-use request at Yerger Middle School.

–Approved a one-year rollover extension of the superintendent’s contract.

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