Red tape and new laws are pushing the Cabot School District out of the business of managing substitute teachers, turning instead to contract services. “The reason most [districts] are looking at this is the cost of the new healthcare regulations,” superintendent Tony Thurman said during the May 21 school board meeting.

Other matters considered by the school board included changes to district personnel policies, student handbook changes at and school meal price increases.

The board also recognized a graduating senior on 13 years of perfect attendance. “This is certainly an accomplishment worthy of our recognition…,” Thurman said.

Thurman and board members Wendel Msall, Ricky Hill, Donna Nash, Corey Williams, Mark Russell, Brian Evans and Dean Martin attended the meeting.

Board members approved a lengthy list of recommended changes to various district policies that were presented by assistant superintendent Harold Jeffcoat during a committee meeting held before the regular board meeting.

The hour-long presentation included changes to school board operation, licensed and classified personnel policies, student handbook, curriculum and instruction, homeschool participation in sports and student drug testing.

Jeffcoat explained the recommendations primarily as housekeeping to bring the district into compliance with a number of changes made by the recent General Assembly, clarify language in some requirements, and simply keeping the policies current.

Changes include counting abstained votes by board members as “no;” giving the board wider discretion with requests from the community; bringing school choice into alignment with new legislation; and added appeal procedures for suspension.

The Student Handbook was revised to include “e-cigarettes” in the list of prohibited items; further defined “bullying;” clarified the term “controlled substances;” and clarified consequences for level I and II offenses.

The number of random drug tests was reduced to four per semester but testing more students each time.

The full Interscholastic Activity Home School policy is still being developed, but will reflect changes made during the General Assembly, Jeffcoat said.

Thurman said bids were requested about six weeks ago for businesses to assume the staffing of substitute teachers. Cabot is one of the larger districts to not yet go to such a service, he said.

The change is coming about because of the changes to healthcare requirements, Thurman said. It is simpler and more cost-effective for the district to contract with a service, which would take care of the requirements for health insurance with the “hundreds” of substitutes managed by the district until now, he said.

“There is a lot more responsibility for the substitutes in terms of paperwork,” Thurman said.

District comptroller Tina Wiley explained that the proposal from Kelly Educational Staffing provides more services and benefits to the substitute teachers than the district is able to provide.

Russell questioned changing to the service. “I do not see any benefit for us,” he remarked. He said outsourcing is used to reduce costs, but he saw no such reduction for the district.

The board voted to accept to the bid from Kelly Educational Staffing to manage the substitute teachers, with Russell voting against.

Meal prices need to be increased to meet federal requirements, Thurman told school board members. To meet the requirements, the charge for meals needs to be increased 10 cents, he said.

New prices would be $1.35 for elementary and secondary breakfast; $2 for elementary lunch and $2.20 for secondary lunch.

Jeffcoat reported on the district construction projects. “A lot of progress being made, a lot of work happening in our construction and maintenance,” he said.

All structural steel for Building 1 of the freshman academy is complete.

Installation of ceiling grids and painting has begun at one end of the building, and will “work its way around” to the rest of the structure.

Only the millwork remains to be done on the career and technical building, Jeffcoat said. “We plan to start that next week,” he said.

The track resurfacing project began last week, with a planned completion date of July 4, Jeffcoat said. “We think we can make that happen as long as the weather works with us,” he said.

Work on the band shell and press box began in early May; estimated completion date is Aug. 10, Jeffcoat said. “We aren’t going to guarantee it, but we should have everything finished by Aug. 10,” he said.

Work on the Ward Central Elementary School driveway and parking lot project has started, Jeffcoat said. “We have pushed a lot of dirt at Ward Central,” he said.

Work on expanding the Ward Central cafeteria is expected to begin next week, Jeffcoat said.

During recognitions at the beginning of the meeting, board members were told of Talan Evans’ 13 years of perfect attendance. Evans was given a plaque marking the accomplishment.

“I didn’t think it could be done, perfect attendance in 13 years at Cabot schools,” Thurman said. “It’s an amazing feat.”

Evans said he faced a slight dilemma on “senior skip day.”

Although he considered skipping the day, “I’m not going to give up one day and ruin 12 years of work,” Evans said. “The classes were pretty empty,” he remarked.

Thurman said that Evans did miss one day, the first day of school last year. Thurman said Evans is active in church youth groups as a mentor and leader, and had been on a mission trip to South Africa, but his return airline connections did not get him back on time.

“I felt I could have executive leniency, and I excused him that day,” Thurman said. “I think it was appropriate to do so,” he said.

Evans said there never was a conscious decision to try for perfect attendance. “It was never pushed, I just went to school,” he said.

Thurman congratulated Evans on continuing beyond high school to the University of Arkansas.

“Typically I tell people, ‘Make sure you go to class.’ But I don’t have to worry about that,” he said.

Special note was given during the May 21 school board meeting, to a graduating senior for perfect attendance, not for a year, or high school, but for his entire 13-year school career.