by Danny Wade
When the Humboldt School Board met last Thursday evening, they had a relatively short agenda, but there were some key topics to discuss. One of those items was approving the tool to be used for Dr. Janice Epperson’s superintendent’s evaluation.
According to school board policy, the board and superintendent must agree on the evaluation instrument format to be used. Tennessee School Boards Association provides school boards across the state with their evaluation tool to use. TSBA’s version allows school board members to rank the superintendent on various topics and duties from one to five with five being the best.
School board member Wayne McLemore had concerns regarding the 5-point rating system.
“If there is a question (on the evaluation form) that I don’t know, I haven’t observed you doing, how can I vote?” McLemore said. “Can I put ‘NA’ or have a “zero” column?”
Dr. Epperson agreed with McLemore’s concern. How can someone mark a grade if they have no knowledge of how she addressed a particular subject.
Central Office Administrative Assistant Cindy Love said TSBA takes that into consideration when collecting the data from the evaluation. Love also told the board there are two ways to fill out the evaluation—electronically or on paper.
“I’m good with it if you are,” Dr. Epperson said of using TSBA’s evaluation tool.
The evaluation is due by September 23.
In other school board business:
•Prior to the school board meeting, a public hearing was held to give board members information regarding student and faculty internet usage. Technology Director Wayne Sheehan gave a presentation.
Sheehan told the board about steps being taken to keep students safe while using their school-provided devices. He said the devices have “blockers and filters” on them as does the school system’s internet system. Apps such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and others are blocked entirely. The system can flag certain areas students visit and troubling searches for things like suicide or depression, as well as for websites they should not be visiting.
•Dr. Epperson asked Humboldt City Schools’ Finance Director Brad Davis to speak regarding the loan payment the school has been making for the past few years. Davis said the bond note from 2016 for various renovations of the buildings has a variable interest rate. Davis said the federal government raised interest rates to try to slow down inflation.
In September of 2021, Davis said the interest rate was 1.07-percent and this month it was up to 2.75-percent. Last year’s monthly interest payment was $3,100. The payment made last month was $7,000. Davis anticipates another interest rate increase in the coming months.
Davis and Dr. Epperson have looked at different ways to save money. He said one option is to go ahead and make the annual principle payment in September instead of May of next year, which could save around $5,000 to $6,000. Another option is to go to the city, who holds the note, and ask to refinance.
Dr. Epperson asked the board who should talk with the mayor and aldermen regarding refinancing the note. Some board members thought Dr. Epperson should talk with the mayor. But, Leon McNeal suggested having Davis talk with Humboldt’s finance director, Kim Hadley so they can go over the pros and cons for refinancing.
Dr. Epperson agreed that both Davis and Hadley should meet but she wanted to be included as well as Mayor Marvin Sikes so the four of them could sit down to come up with the best plan. This way, there would not be multiple meetings and just one meeting to determine what would be best.
•During the superintendent’s report, Dr. Epperson asked Academic Coordinator/Testing Coordinator Michelle Lewis to update the board on the latest Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) scores.
Lewis had slides showing the different grades, subjects and how Humboldt students scored. Lewis explained how the 5-point system works. She said a 3 means students are right where they should be and increased one grade for that year’s learning. A 2 or a 1 signal students did not increase a grade level while 4 and 5 indicate more than one year’s growth.
The chart compared 2021 scores to 2022 scores from Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School and from East Elementary School. Some categories did not have 2021 scores due to Covid and schools not being held accountable during the pandemic.
HJSHS scores were low for both 2021 and 2022 but there was an uptick in 2022. In 2021, there were several 1s with a couple of 2s and3s. For 2022, there were a few more 2s and 3s in the various categories.
East Elementary scores looked pretty good for 2021 with only three 1s, no 2s, six 3s, no 4s and three 5s. The 2022 scores were even better with three 1s, no 2s, five 3s, five 4s and six 5s.
Humboldt City Schools has filed three appeals to the Tennessee Department of Education Accountability Appeals. The components are “ready graduate”, “chronically out of school” and “graduation cohort”. Dr. Epperson said she does not know how the appeals will turn out, but she hopes HCS has a chance of having these overturned.
•Also in Dr. Epperson’s report, she talked about fall break and how the school system will offer fall break academic intercessions. This is for students that may be behind and can use the extra time to help get caught up. She said these students need to be in school over the fall break. They have identified those who need extra help.
Dr. Epperson said there will be one-on-one sessions and will use the highest functioning teacher. It is for students in third, sixth and seventh grades and will be held at East Elementary from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. each day. Buses will run, and breakfast and sack lunches will be provided.