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School board members approved the purchase of approximately seven acres of land adjacent to the high school at a cost of $300,000 during their meeting on March 12.

The school district is purchasing the land from the Elrod family for the price of $75,000 per acre for two acres along Cheri Whitlock Drive and $30,000 per acre for the parcel that does not touch the road, according to the real estate contract. The land is next to the 11 acres the district purchased in April 2018 from the Elrod family for a baseball, softball and tennis complex.

Brian Lamb, school board president, said Superintendent Jody Wiggins did great work on the negotiations and said he is appreciative of the Elrod family.

Board members voted to authorize Wiggins to begin negotiations to purchase the land for potential development during a special meeting and work session on Feb. 19. They also informally agreed that a new school administration building should be the district's next construction project during the two-hour session. A softball, baseball and tennis complex should the district's second priority and the indoor practice facility should be the third priority, four of the five members said in February. Lamb said he needed more time to consider the possibilities.

The work session took place to discuss the best way to use the money the district is saving by refinancing two construction bonds for Siloam Springs High School. Most of the $4.69 million in savings -- a total of $2.1 million -- will be realized this year. State laws only allow the school district to carry a 20 percent budget surplus from one year to the next and anything over 20 percent must be put in the building fund and designated for use, Wiggins said in February.

In other business, school board members approved adding $1,250 to the base teacher salary and giving a 3.125 percent raise to non-certified staff members.

The increase to the base teacher salary will give first-year teachers a 3.125 percent raise, bringing the district's starting salary for teachers with a bachelor's degree to $41,250 and the salary for a teacher with a master's degree to $43,550, according to Terry Raskiewicz, chief financial officer for the district.

Administrators who also serve as English as a second language, gifted and talented or vocational directors at the individual school building level will see their salaries multiplied by an additional 1.04 index and substitute teachers, bus drivers and bus aides will also see an increase in pay.

The raises will increase the district's salary and benefits expenditures by nearly $1 million a year, which will come from money the school district has been able to carry forward and is now putting back into salaries, Raskiewicz said. The money does not come from the bond refinancing savings, which is a one-time bonus, she said.

School board members also approved rehiring a list of administrators for the 2020/2021 school year as well as several changes in administration.

Board members accepted the resignations of Tanya Johnson, Allen Elementary School principal; Tim Hornbuckle, intermediate school principal; and Grace Davis, director of teacher quality and community relations.

Johnson, who has worked in the district since 2016, said she is relocating to live closer to family in her resignation letter. Hornbuckle, who has worked in the district for 22 years, starting as a teacher and a coach, said he has accepted a position with the Benton School District for the upcoming year. Davis said she plans to retire at the end of the year.

Board members also accepted title changes for Ross White and Shane Patrick.

Patrick, who is currently serving as director of operations, will be designated as assistant superintendent of operations. Wiggins said when he was interviewed for the position of superintendent, he shared with school board members that he believed the school district has grown to the point it will be better served by having two assistant superintendents, one over curriculum/instruction and one over daily operations.

"Mr. Patrick has gradually taken on all of the duties that I was responsible for when I was the district's sole assistant superintendent," Wiggins wrote in his recommendation letter. "He has done a very good job with anything that I have asked of him."

White, who is currently serving as one of three high school assistant principals, will be designated vice principal. The high school has not had a vice principal for the past two years, however principal Rob Lindley recommended White take on the responsibilities of the role in a letter to the school board.

Additional actions taken by the school board included:

• Accepted the results of the Arkansas Legislative Audit of the Siloam Springs School District, which has no negative findings.

• Approved the submission of a program description for a kindergarten through fourth grade alternative classroom and a fifth through eighth grade alternative classroom.

• Approved a resolution permitting board member Travis Jackson to be a registered volunteer for soccer tournaments and other school events.

• Accepted the resignation of third grade teacher Amber Zornes.

• Approved the transfer of seven students from the Gentry School District to the Siloam Springs School District.

• Denied the transfer of two students from the Gentry School District to the Siloam Springs School District.

• Approved the transfer of five students out of the Siloam Springs School District to the Gentry School District.

General News on 03/25/2020

Print Headline: School makes land purchase

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