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School board tackles several topics

Dr. Janice Epperson

by ARIEL McRAE | Associate Editor

The Humboldt School Board meeting started on a somber note last Thursday as board member Valeria Wedley led everyone in a moment of silence for the Humboldt High School class of 1988 in honor and memory of three individuals lost from the class this year, Jason Tubbs, Randy Elmore and Darrell Martin Marable.

After the moment of silence, the board made quick work of the remaining short agenda. Three members of the board were present with Mark Hodge and Terry Johnson unable to attend. Before talking about the full agenda, Humboldt City Schools Superintendent Dr. Janice Epperson requested that two line items be deleted from voting or discussion for the time being as advised by the schools’ legal team. Those items dealt with VEEO services and payment plan. The board approved the amendment to the agenda unanimously 3-0.

During the agenda, the fall district meeting set for September 19 and the TSBA leadership conference set for November 16 through 19 were announced.

The revised version of the TCAP and EOC weighted percentages were voted upon as well. Dr. Epperson mentioned that after going through the revision process her team settled on a percentage of 15-percent weight for the tests to affect the final grades. The board approved the revision 3-0.

The main discussion at the board meeting was during the superintendent’s report. The report began by detailing how the first day of school went for all of the schools in Humboldt. Dr. Epperson said that it all went very well. There was only one incident where a little girl rode the bus in the morning but was supposed to be a car rider at the end of the day and ended up taking the bus back home. Dr. Epperson told the board that everything was okay with the little girl and that everyone made sure she was safe. They are working to make sure the kids have identifiers to ensure the staff knows where a kid is supposed to be either on the bus or in the parent pick up line.

Another item on the superintendent’s report was announcing the vacancy of three positions for teachers that currently need to be filled. Those positions are a special education teacher at Stigall Primary, a special education teacher at East Elementary and an algebra I teacher at Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School. Dr. Epperson told the board that the math position was open only because Kelly Vonner had been promoted and is now the assistant principal of HJSHS.

The idea of promotions spurned discussion from board member Leon McNeal.

“We know how hard it is to get math teachers. Everyone is struggling. It is always good to put your name in the hat for a promotion to advance oneself,” McNeal started. “But is that a good thing when [the school] is struggling so hard? Is it good to take a person [from the position] and let them advance at that time or wait until the position is filled?”

Dr. Epperson answered the question by posing another question, “You have to ask yourself, ‘Do you keep punishing someone because they are good at what they do or do you allow them to advance themselves and take the heat to figure out how to replace them?’ It is a hard pill to swallow, but if you don’t promote [a teacher] when they are worthy of being promoted, you are going to lose them.”

On the superintendent’s report there was also mention of a new math curriculum for the Humboldt City Schools system. It is called SAVVAS learning and the school is working to implement it for the students. They currently have all the books available for students.

The accountability data for the schools system is also back for Humboldt. It is currently embargo so it is unavailable to share for the time being. Dr. Epperson did say that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Another update given in the superintendent’s report was the new library furniture is finally in the building. There is also a new librarian for HJSHS, Melissa Dittmer-Bennett. She was the former librarian at East Elementary. Bookshelves and additional technology for the library is on the way.

There is new furniture being ordered for all the schools. Student desks and teacher desks are among the furniture ordered. It will hopefully be delivered and assembled during student breaks throughout the 2023-2024 school year. All classrooms should be fully furnished by the end of the current school year.

The glass classroom lab from a innovated schools model grant is finished at HJSHS now–minus one panel that needs to be replaced. The glass lab will be used to help students get ready for college or the workforce by holding mock interviews. They will also be shown how to make résumés and how to apply to college. It will also serve to help kids work on their essays for college, and be available for parents to work on their résumés. It is located in the CTE building.

Literacy grants were garnered by the Humboldt City Schools system as well. There were three grants listed on the superintendent’s report. One was called the Literacy Implementation Network for $83,000, which will assist in purchasing materials, training and expert support. Another was called the Access for All Network, which was for $30,000 to support early childhood education. The last grant was for k-8, Access for All Network in the amount of $60,000.

Dr. Epperson ended her superintendent’s report by reestablishing her goal for Humboldt students to become the portrait of a Viking graduate. It is a plan put into place to educate the whole child from pre-k to 12th grade and all of their needs. It is more than just instructions. Dr. Epperson said that she wants to ensure that students graduating are ready for the future and are able to compete with other students around the country in all areas of life so they will be successful as they prepare to leave the Humboldt City Schools system.

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