The Hope Public School District Board got an overview Monday night of the progress ongoing in the district in preparation for the new academic year which begins in three weeks, including more than $100 extra per student from the state of Arkansas.

HPSD Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart informed the board that the district has received its new accreditation without citation.

“Our accreditation letter came through clean,” Dr. Hart said. “All of our building principals worked extremely hard on that.”

He recognized the leadership of HPS Assistant Superintendent for Federal Programs Portia Jones in coordinating the effort.

The news comes as the district prepares to implement a professional development master plan for all teachers to be rolled out in the 2019-2020 academic year.

HPS School Improvement Specialist Carla Narlesky reviewed the concept for the board, addressing particularly questions regarding oversight and a planned roll-out week for all teachers prior to the beginning of school Aug. 13.

Narlesky said that each district campus has formed a review team to keep teachers on track with the implementation of a revised Response to Intervention protocol, which has shown positive results, but has not been consistently applied.

“We had a plan; but, it wasn’t being used right,” Hart added.

The RTI concept has been a foundational tool for curriculum expression throughout the district, which is based upon a three-tier approach of core instruction, augmented instruction and intensive instruction.

“We catch kids before they fail; that’s the short definition,” Narlesky said. She said three days of intensive teacher training will be devoted to strengthening core curriculum instruction relative to state standards and RTI and two days will involve campus-based training for grade-level instruction.

Narlesky said the teacher training has been developed by the district and will be presented by the district rather than rely upon outside presentations offered through agencies such as the Southwest Arkansas Education Cooperative because it needs to be district-specific.

“RTI is in the general classroom; it is not a special education, or other type of approach,” Narlesky said.

She said the implementation of the revised RTI delivery will require understanding by students, teachers, administrators and parents to carry out their roles.

“We’re starting to put the triangle of RTI where it needs to be,” Narlesky said.

She said the plan will include “mapping” techniques for the emphasis of “essential standards” among statewide academic standards on a collaborative basis at each campus.

Board questions about scheduling within the instructional day also raised points about how the approach will improve ACT Aspire scores districtwide.

Narlesky emphasized that the RTI approach has been and will continue to be a general education tool for every student’s instruction.

“Every student will have intervention time or enrichment time in their day,” she said.
Hart addressed the ACT Aspire question.

“When the letter grade piece comes out, I think we are going to see some improvement,” he said.
He said, while that improvement may not be as dramatic as previously seen, it will likely mirror the trend statewide of a leveling-off in ACT Aspire scores.

“I think that makes an argument to find a better test,” Hart said.

He said a major flaw in the reliance of the state upon ACT Aspire to gauge and foster improvement academically is the lack of correlation between the test and statewide curriculum requirements. Hart likened it to attempting to correlate ballet and football to measure improvement in ballet performance with standards concerning football.

“ACT is not a valid instrument,” he said. “I am proud of the work of the students and parents about doing the work needed to make improvements.”

Board members agreed.

“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Zone 8 Representative David “Bubba” Powers said. “And, I’m very proud of it.”

Hart also took the board through a brief overview of the district’s financial status, noting that numerous capital projects in the past three years have pushed budget reserves down from $4.9 million to $2.5 million.

“There is no danger, but we do need to be conscious of what we spend,” he said of the new budget year.

He said the district will see a slight improvement in revenue, principally from a $101 per student increase in state foundation funding; but, that will be affected by a decline in enrollment, and the manner in which state funds are allocated to districts with enrollment decreases.

In other matters, Monday, the board:
--Received model Arkansas School Boards Association policies for review and adoption later.
--Adopted a district school choice policy which maintains a “board to board” student transfer component, but is written to specifically adhere to the ruling of U. S. District Judge Susan Hickey applying a 1988 federal court desegregation order.
--Rejected a classified personnel vacations policy revision.
--Adopted personnel recommendations from administration.