Nettleton School Board honors special member

By Tristan Bennett
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – The Nettleton School Board honored a special member of the district’s team at a meeting Monday night.

The board recognized Abby the therapy dog for the work she and her handler, Bryce Holmes, do with the students at University Heights School for Medical Arts.

“We do a lot of things with the kids from going down the slides to literacy and emotional control,” Holmes said.

Abby and Holmes began going to the school since December 2019 and immediately became popular among the students. Abby spends every Tuesday and Wednesday encouraging young readers and bringing smiles to classrooms. Debbie Bean, UHSMA principal, said she already noticed an improvement in her building.

“You can just kind of feel it,” Bean said. “When she walks in, the kids are just drawn to the dog, and the dog is just perfect.”

Abby is a resource for every student, but works especially with the special education program. She wears a vest that was designed with snaps, zippers, buttons and ties to help teach fine motor skills.

She also works with UHSMA reading interventionists. Students read aloud to Abby to help build their confidence and ability.

“There are kids that stop and go ‘I will read to Abby,’ and to have our interventionist say ‘We never thought we’d hear them say that,’ that’s a huge encouragement for me,” Holmes said. “That’s one less kid that has to go through the hum-drum of reading out loud.”

According to Holmes, therapy dogs in schools improve test scores, increase attendance, help with emotional stability and bring down stress hormones.

Also on the agenda, James Dunivan, superintendent, recommended the addition of a $50 non-refundable registration fee for the district’s three Pre-K programs. If accepted, the fee would be applied to the first tuition payment.

“With so many Pre-Ks in the area, understandably, parents will go around and put their names on multiple lists,” Dunivan said. “We hold that spot, we don’t get to fill it. So, we hope that the $50 registration fee will make it more serious and more important before they put their names on the list.”

The board, with all members present, voted unanimously to accept the recommendation.

Next, Grace Petersen, elementary curriculum director, and Lacy Baker, secondary curriculum director, gave reports highlighting student accomplishments from across the district.

Elementary students attended the Arkansas Junior Beta Club Convention in January. A Fox Meadow School of Creative Media student was elected president of Arkansas Junior Beta Club, and 100 more students attended and competed at the convention.

The Jr. High Quiz Bowl Team took fourth place at the state tournament and received an invitation to nationals, and a Nettleton High School student won the Crowley’s Ridge Reading Council writing contest with his essay about the impact “Harry Potter” as had on his life.

Other issues discussed in the meeting were:

  • The purchase of a new school bus
  • Discarding inventory items no longer on site at the district
  • Student transfers
  • A salary schedule amendment to add the technical events director

All recommendations passed unanimously.