The Helena-West Helena School Board Monday night voted unanimously to invest $78,200 from its restricted funds to focus on improving math instruction and ACT scores at Central High School and to empower the HWH Public School Foundation and HWH Booster Club to develop appropriate recognition programs to aid efforts in raising private funds to offset some costs of the new high school facilities.

The Helena-West Helena School Board Monday night voted unanimously to invest $78,200 from its restricted funds to focus on improving math instruction and ACT scores at Central High School and to empower the HWH Public School Foundation and HWH Booster Club to develop appropriate recognition programs to aid efforts in raising private funds to offset some costs of the new high school facilities.

CHS Principal Earnest Simpson, III briefed the board on the proposal to hire Making Teachers Great to provide intensive professional development to math teachers at the high school and to provide ACT Bootcamp sessions to CHS students in Grades 9-12.

The company will meet with the five math faculty on the development of math lesson plans, work with teachers to evaluate test data to focus on those skills where the school is struggling, and visit classrooms to work with teachers to improve instruction. Company officials will be on the campus working with the math faculty a total of 54 days during the school year.

Simpson said, “Currently, our 80 percent of our high school math faculty has less than two years experience. It is important that we provide them with intensive support so that they and our students can be successful. The person who founded this firm has had success in other schools similar to ours. I believe this will result in better instruction and improved test scores.”

In response to questions asked by members of the School Board, School Board President Andrew Bagley said, “This is just another part of the planning being done to improve our test scores. We have invested in the AAIMS program and the Academy of Excellence to improve the instruction and raise expectations for students who want to build on their proficiencies and reach excellence. But we also know that we have got to focus some resources and planning effort on raising the achievement of those in our schools who are struggling to meet proficiency targets. With the work of our data analysis personnel to identify those skills where we are struggling combined with this effort to work on the instruction being provided on these math skills where we are weakest, we have the potential to make significant impacts on student achievement that will be noticeable in a short amount of time.”

The ACT Boot Camp will provide students in grades 9-12 the opportunity to come in after school two days per week and on eleven selected Saturdays to receive intensive extra preparation for the ACT test. It is the hope of the administration and board of directors that this extra help will result in CHS ACT scores matching or passing the state average.

Simpson provided the rationale for the program saying, “Our average ACT is approximately four points below the state average and results in our students have to bear increased costs of remedial instruction when they begin their college careers. This will allow us to provide them with access to special ACT coaches. We did a small pilot with this last year and those students did show significant score increases.”

Superintendent John Hoy added, “Our push is to make sure our students are fully prepared for life as productive, responsible, and caring citizens. Part of that is making sure that when our students leave they are prepared either for college, the military, vocational training, or the work place. This test determines how much college is going to cost because colleges determine scholarship amounts based on this score. We have a responsibility to do everything possible to make sure they are ready.”

The board also approved the recommendation of Bagley to empower the H-WH Public School Foundation to develop recognition programs to offset some of the new academic facility costs and to give the same authority for the HWH Booster Club to do so on athletic facilities.

Bagley said, “These nonprofit organizations have been formed for the sole purpose of raising private funds to support our academic and extracurricular programs. This is a very similar approach to what is being done in districts across the country in the midst of major building programs.”

The authority will grant the organizations the right to name interior portions of the facility in honor of individuals, businesses, or groups in exchange for appropriate levels of financial support. The board of directors retains the sole right to name entire buildings.

The focus of the fundraising will likely focus on raising private funds to purchase furnishings and equipment for the state of the art facilities funded by the community’s support of a millage increase in last March’s special election.

In other business, the board unanimously approved expenditures for preschool special education and physical therapy for the Department of Special Services, personnel to staff after school programs, funding for teachers work additional time on curriculum work to identify the district’s areas of weakness and develop appropriate instructional tools, and the donation of the flag pole at the portion of the CHS campus set for demolition to the Phillips County Port Authority for continued use at their property.