During last week’s meeting of the Petal School District Board of Directors, board members received annual reports from three more district departments: athletics, child nutrition and technology. The reports were in addition to three reports received at the April 10 meeting and four reports at the March 13 meeting.
The Petal School District has 20 teams participating in sports, including but not limited to football, volleyball, cross country, basketball, archery and softball. Of those 20 teams, 16 participated in the playoffs, 18 became Mississippi High School Activities Association Scholar Athlete teams, and six teams or individuals competed for a state championship.
In particular, the high school and middle school archery teams each recently brought home their fourth consecutive state championship.
Other highlights from the past year include a new JumboTron that was installed at Panther Stadium at no cost to the district and the retirement of long-time baseball coach Larry Watkins. Officials also have hired a new swim coach for next season, and are scouting for potential head coaches for volleyball and girls soccer.
Staff also are looking forward to improvements at the Petal High School gym, including a new floor, painting and an upgrade to the air conditioning system.
“(That floor) is going to be great – it’s going to be one of a kind,” said Marcus Boyles, who serves as the high school football coach and athletic director. “It’s not going to be your standard gym floor; it’s going to look different from everything else.
“And we don’t have air conditioning … so we’re trying to make negotiations on that. Since I’ve been here in my six years, we’ve not done a whole lot to the gym, so this will be a great thing.”
Goals for the upcoming season include beginning a character education class, starting a girls’ powerlifting team, ensuring all teams become Scholar Athlete teams with an overall 3.0 GPA, have all teams participate in community service during off seasons and begin a mentoring program with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Pine Belt for the middle school athletes.
Child nutrition department
The child nutrition department, which consists of 56 employees, provides an average of 3,129 lunches and 1,427 breakfasts daily to adults and students in Pre-K through 12th grade.
As of May 1, the district-wide free and reduced lunch percentage is 58.77 percent, which is a decrease of 2.11 percent from last year’s 60.88 percent.
“What that equates to is about a $6,000 difference in federal funds that we get, as a minus,” department director Danny Dillistone said. “It shows that the economy’s getting better, but it does hurt a little bit in the money, as far as the federal funds that we get.
“In a $2.6 million budget, you look at $5,000 and think that’s not that bad, but that’s (enough for) a piece of equipment. So it does add up quick.”
The department has installed new cameras at Petal Upper Elementary School, purchased new computer hardware for point of sale upgrades at all sites, provided a proofer/holding cabinet at the upper elementary and a pass-through refrigerator at the high school.
“The (point of sale) system is an upgrade to our old system – it’s going to be web-based,” Dillistone said. “So they had a particular set of computers they needed us to buy.
“Well, the computers we have now are going to go to the IT lab, because they’re four years old now, but they’re really nice computers.”
In the near future, the child nutrition department will send 12 employees to a ServSafe training class, and the rest of the staff will sit through a food handlers’ class as a refresher course. The department also will continue its participation with Petal Relay For Life, including raising funds through bulk food sales, pan sales, turkey and dressing sales, and T-shirt sales.
Technology-wise, the school district is now 1:1 in Chromebooks in grades 2 through 6, meaning there is one Chromebook for every student in that class range.
“That’s going really well; all theses grades are using technology almost daily in all their lessons,” department director John Rector said. “It’s going great and the kids love it.
“We have over 3,300 Chromebooks in the district, up 2,300 from last year. We made a major investment this year to put these Chromebooks in the hands of the students, and it seems to be paying off.”
Rector said the district needs to replace 850 Chromebooks each year, at a cost of approximately $178,000 per year.
Technology officials also are adding wireless access points around the district and are continuing the use of online student registration. New high-definition security cameras are being placed in all schools, with that work complete at Petal Elementary School and Petal Middle School.
Goals for the upcoming school year include continuing with Questar assessments with relatively few issues, focusing on the increased utilization of cloud-based apps with Chromebooks, continuing the use of Web 2.0 tools and attending Mississippi Educational Computing Association and International Society for Technology in Education conferences.