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The Strong-Huttig School Board gave the district superintendent permission to advertise requesting sealed bids for portable buildings at a meeting Monday.

Superintendent Jeff Alphin said Strong High School stopped using the buildings two years ago and sparing the cost to repair air conditioning units and the walkway isn’t worth it.

“This was a recommendation from the facilities man that came in July. He said that if we weren’t using any of those buildings and since before we had to put a bunch of money into them with the fire improvements, redoing the walkway and everything … we’d be better off putting that money back into the general fund and using it to improve like we did last year selling the lots in Huttig and then bought the fire alarms with it.”

Board members also approved rental rates for two district-owned houses. The rates are $300 per month for a house in Huttig and $200 per month for a house in Strong. Alphin said he has been working on rental agreements for the properties.

“They’re the same amounts that it has been. They just weren’t entered into the board minutes and we just need to do that,” Alphin said.

Board President Cindy Smith took the time out to commend the administration and teachers on a job well done. School improvements and well-kept finances impressed the Arkansas Board of Education during a hearing early this month, she said.

“I just want to congratulate you guys on making absolutely sure that we’re making all of the decisions that we make financially in a positive way. That paid off when we were in Little Rock at the meeting,” Smith said. “Thank you for going the extra mile. Thank you for doing what you do for the betterment of our school and our kids.”

Strong High School teachers are working with ACT Aspire data to improve reading comprehension. Teachers are also “going back to the basics” so students can improve on multiplication, said school improvement specialist Shirley Kyle.

“They’re reading, but they’re not comprehending what they’re reading … Our teachers, especially at the high school, need to know how to use the comprehension strategies, how to teach them to our students,” Kyle said. “We started in the summer on the DOK, the depth of knowledge, so they can look at how the standards are written and determine if they’re teaching at that level. Then we went to our comprehension (strategies) … The first one we did was on background knowledge.”

Principal Wendell Colen said he’s looking for increased enrollment in the district’s after-school program that currently “services around 55 students” from 3 to 6 p.m. each day.

“We do homework, make sure all of their homework and we’re looking at the reading strategies and the math strategies with our students. We’re going to let them have a little fun time, too,” Colen said.

Elementary school improvement specialist Becky Bolding said all Bulldogs in grades K-12 will attend a Union County PRIDE event this school year, starting with students in grades sixth through eighth attending Responsible Education for Adolescent Leaders (REAL) in El Dorado.

Bolding said she’s “worked hard” on submitting two grant proposals for the Arkansas National Archery in the School program, which costs over $3,000 to run. Once the grant is awarded, teachers and volunteers would attended a one-day certification course by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission instructor Laura Rogers.

“We should hear from these grants around Thanksgiving. I talked to them today and I said, ‘What is the likelihood of us getting this grant?’ They said that it’s very good because we’ve never received a grant from them before,” Bolding said.

After an executive session, board members appointed Pam Gathright to fill the vacancy for Zone 7. According to previous News-Times reports, Gathright worked for Simmons Bank, was a member of the El Dorado Civitan Club and Main Street El Dorado Board of Directors.

The board also approved two student transfer petitions, one from El Dorado and another to Parkers Chapel, and several financial reports, assurance statements and Arkansas School Boards Association policies.

The Strong-Huttig School Board will meet at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 in the Strong High School library.

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