Back to school

Sheri Gourd | Daily Press

During Thursday night's regular Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education meeting, Dana Eversole, left, was sworn in for Seat No. 3 by Brian Berry.

Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education met Thursday night for the first time since the school year began.

While the agenda was large and there were many updates from principals and staff, the executive session garnered approval for three items. Agreements were made, and the board approved, to a $1,500 raise to certified teachers and administrators, and a 40 cents per hour raise to noncertified support staff.

"The state required $1,200 for teachers. We went above and beyond and gave $1,500," said Superintendent Leon Ashlock. "The state did not give any money for support staff, but we gave them a little bit of a raise."

Last year, teacher pay raises cost the district $280,000, according to Ashlock. He said that this year they are $42,000 in the black, but that will be used to hire more teachers and paraprofessionals.

New to voting this month was Dana Eversole. It was approved that she was appointed to fill Seat No. 3 which was vacated by Sharon Ballew. Eversole was sworn in and will serve until April 2020.

Among the discussion of the monthly financial report was to approve a student activity account for Tiger E-Sports Club. This is related to the memorandum of understanding with Start LAN Center, which was later approved and will lead to the creation of an E-Sports, or competitive video gaming, program.

"The start up would be hundreds of thousands of dollars for this, but with Start, our kids can use their facilities and their equipment," said Ashlock. "This is an outstanding opportunity."

Tanya Jones, director of Federal Programs and Indian Education, gave an overview of grants the district has for the year from state, federal, and corporate sources. These include two 21st Century Grants, a literacy grant, a USDA Farm to School grant, a Gifted & Talented grant, and a homeless education grant.

"Last year, over 300 students, by the end of the year, identified as homeless," said Jones.

The principals from the seven TPS sites spoke about the first week of school. All said it was going smoothly. Enrollments at each site are approximate as more students are still enrolling: Sequoyah Pre-K Center, 180; Heritage Elementary School, 537; Greenwood Elementary School, 534; Cherokee Elementary School, 430; Tahlequah Middle School, 672; Tahlequah High School, 1,236, and Central Academy has about 25 students in various programs.

Reports were given on the Summer Food Program and the totals for meals served in the 2018-2019 school year. This topic led to a discussion about the "alternative meals" students receive if they do not have money in their accounts or have not returned the Free and Reduced-Price School Meals.

Ashlock presented figures concerning unpaid lunch bills in the district last year, which was $6,978, and the amount charged this first week of school, which was $1,757. He also explained why some districts give free lunch to all students.

Board member Chrissi Nimmo challenged the board to come up with a solution to the alternative meal so that no child would get "two pieces of bread and a slice of cheese, and a milk."

"Even for young kids, that's not a get-you-through-the-day kind of lunch," said Nimmo.

All agenda items were approved, except for one which was tabled because figures were inaccurate on the agenda.

What's next

The next Board of Education meeting is Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m.