Prentiss County schools are looking at ways to help students catch up after a pair of unusual school years.

Superintendent Jeff Palmer told the board Monday the district is researching options for the use of approximately $900,000 in federal ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds which are targeted at addressing learning loss due to the pandemic.

Palmer said he will be working with principals, central office administrators and others to develop a plan for the use of the funds to best reach students who have fallen behind due to shifts in the learning process related to the pandemic.

“We’re looking at a variety of options. Everything is on the table,” he said.

The district will be providing a number of options this summer and at the beginning of the next school year to help those students as well, with details going out to parents soon.

Palmer said they recently received results from the state’s third-grade reading assessment and scores were lower than they would like to see. He said they understand students have seen schedules go from entirely online to partially online to mostly in school since March of 2020 when the pandemic began and have missed out on a lot of in-person instruction that’s vital to developing reading skills. He said teachers have done an incredible job of working with students to keep skills up in difficult times and should be commended for the countless hours put in as they work to help students and keep them on track.

The board approved on a pair of 4-1 votes lengthening the contracts for the district’s psychometrist (who tests students who are gifted and those who may qualify for special education services) and the district’s instructional technology coaches. Board member Sheila Johnson voted against both moves, saying she’s concerned about the long-term funding impact of the increases on the district once grant and/or other federal funds are no longer available to cover the additional salary costs.

The board voted Monday to create a new position for a computer network technician who will work under Network Administrator Andrea Allen to manage, update and maintain the district’s computer network at all campuses which has expanded greatly as the use of technology by students and teachers has increased.

In other business, the board:

approved the annual list of non-certified employees (assistants, custodial staff, secretaries, cafeteria staff, etc.) for Jumpertown for the 2021-22 school year.

approved the following new hires as teachers for the 2021-22 school year: Michael Raines (special education, coaching at Thrasher), Joshua Presley (health and computer sciences at Wheeler), Whitney Brown (elementary teacher, Wheeler), Kayla Stevens (elementary teacher, Marietta), Jennifer Dodds Johnson (counselor, Jumpertown), Andrea Boren (elementary teacher, Thrasher), Connie Tennison (special education, Hills Chapel), Ethan Hutchenson (elementary teacher, Hills Chapel), Chandler Allen (teacher/coach, Thrasher).

accepted the following resignations: Trish Boren (teacher, Thrasher), Karen McCalmon (assistant teacher/bus driver, Thrasher), Kristie Vuncannon (counselor, Jumpertown), Nikki Brown (special education, Thrasher), Brad Wilemon (teacher, Hills Chapel), Jennifer Johnson (English teacher, New Site).

Banner Independent Editor

Managing editor of the Daily Corinthian’s sister newspaper, Booneville’s Banner-Independent, Brant Sappington has been a member of the Daily Corinthian family since 2001.

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