On October 15, 2013, the Newport Board of Education and Superintendent conducted a public meeting to provide information regarding the current status of the school district.
The public report included information on the academic status of the school district. Dr. Larry Bennett, Superintendent of Schools, stated that none of the district schools are rated as being in school improvement. The Elementary (math) and High School (English) are identified as being in Needs of Improvement. The Jr. High School is rated as Achieving. Dr. Larry Bennett also, reported that enrollment continues to decline with the loss of fifty four students based on our October 1 enrollment count. In 2009, the District had 1445 students enrolled in grades K-12 as compared to the current enrollment of 1284 students. The Elementary school has 719 students, the Jr. High has 194 students and the High School’s student enrollment is 371 students. Enrollment numbers have declined by 54 students from this time last year. The financial status of the district is based on student enrollment as the state ensures the district will receive $6393 through state foundation funds and local revenue. The District currently has a tax rate of 37 mills. Twenty-five mills are dedicated to maintenance and operations with 12 mills dedicated to debt service. The current debt of $8,885,000 is the remaining balance on the Elementary school with the debt being paid off in the year 2028. The Board refinanced this debt for a better interest rate and also approved the issuance of five million dollars in 2nd lien bonds. The money received on the refinancing of the bonds and the 2nd lien bonds will be used in the continuing efforts to improve facilities. The District began the year with a beginning fund balance of $2,180,614.94. Revenues of $10,487,659.22 are expected and that same amount will be budgeted as expenditures. The District will also experience a loss in federal funds. To compensate for loss of revenue from state and federal sources, the District eliminated two administrative positions and did not fill some vacant teaching positions. However, the Board adopted a very positive budget which provided for salary increases for all employees to meet the rising cost of living expenses. Dr. Bennett reported that the Castleberry and Albright buildings had asbestos removed and consequently demolished. All schools have received a new state of the art surveillance system so the district buildings can be monitored. A new intrusion system and public address system has been installed at the high school and Jr. high. The District plans to continue with facility improvements such as renovation of the high school auditorium, removing the bleachers in the Fieldhouse and replacing them with stadium seats, installing air conditioning in the Fieldhouse, converting old shop space in the Tech Science building into a Farm Power and Machinery lab and Consumer Science Foods Lab (The Hungry Hound Café), upgrading of the HVAC systems at the high school and Jr. high school and a new telephone system for the Wilkerson Street schools. The buildings at the Wilkerson Street campus will also receive a new fire alarm system. This is made possible with a $1.8 million dollar grant from the Arkansas Department of Facilities and Transportation. The District upgraded the technology backbone on all campuses with the installation of new servers and a wireless network. This upgrade allows students and staff to use new technology in their classrooms. The high school students have been issued chromebooks (small laptops) so they can access the internet and the web based curriculum purchased last summer. Students in all other grades have access to ipads on a check out basis. The Superintendent also reported that the District currently operates 16 regular bus routes and one special needs route to transport approximately 900 students on a daily basis. The longest route is 57 miles long and takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete. However the longest time period a student is on the bus is approximately 48 minutes. The District budget includes the purchase of ten new school buses which will be available in January of next year. Due to declining enrollment and the availability of labor, the District has initiated the process of outsourcing custodial and maintenance services. The District is currently exploring the possibility of employing Food Service consultants to evaluate the current meal programs. The purpose of the consultants would be to evaluate current processes of meal planning, food purchasing and staff training. Consultants would include a Chef and Dieticians. Seventy-eight percent of the student population qualifies for a free or reduced price meal. A report on the annual financial audit indicated that no financial discrepancies were found. However, a second finding related to the use of Stimulus funds and the Davis-Bacon Act did cause the District to meet with the Legislative Audit to explain the findings. The Legislative Audit listened to the explanation then voted unanimously to approve the audit. The meeting also included information regarding the use of Coke funds. These funds are generated by the sale of coke products through vending machines and concessions. The funds are used to support student activities. The meeting ended with information related to the state required school board training. The Superintendent indicated that all Board Members received their required training for the 2012-13 school year.