The Fort Payne Board of Education handled several personnel matters at its Jan. 28 meeting.

Superintendent Jim Cunningham used his reporting period to commend various individuals and groups, including:

• Fort Payne High School, which received the FAFSA Best Hustle Award for successfully improving their early Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion by at least 10%. FPHS had improved FAFSA completion by 27.81% when compared with 2019.

• Fort Payne City Schools Mental Health Service Coordinator Kayla Magbie, who Cunningham said, “continues to impress". He noted how she was on television last week representing Fort Payne at a press conference organized by the Alabama State Department of Education to announce 102 school systems have been awarded grants totaling $4.5 million to hire mental health service coordinators to support and expand the coordination of services.

• Auturo Rodriguez Lopez being named as a National Merit Scholar finalist. He was among 16,000 nationwide National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists representing less than 1% of U.S. high school seniors and competing for 7,600 National Merit Scholarships. Participation requires taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

• The FPHS Gigawatts robotics team and instructor Jamie McClung for being awarded two grants, a $5,000 classroom grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority and a $1,500 grant from the Intuitive Foundation, which sponsors high school robotics teams. “[McClung is] always working very hard, and that is a fascinating group of kids to see in action,” Cunningham said.

• Maggie Groat for competing in the Distinguished Young Women event at the state level, where she won both the talent and fitness categories. “She's also a great ambassador for our community,” Cunningham said.

• the school board itself, on the occasion of school board recognition month.

In other business, the school board:

• approved leaves of absence for Morgan Morgan, Pre-K teacher at Wills Valley Elementary School (WVES) for an unpaid maternity leave Jan. 4-May 28 and Fort Payne Middle School Child Nutrition Program (CNP) worker Veronica Rodriguez for one-day intermittent leave on Jan. 29.

• approved a request to continue the Families First Coronavirus Response Act leave through March 31, 2021.

• hired Mary Darwin as CNP worker at FPHS, Bryan Northcutt as systemwide bus driver, Pat Vinson as assistant track coach at FPHS, Donye Richardson as junior high assistant baseball coach at FPHS, Harley Bobo as assistant softball coach at FPHS and MaKayla Wilson as Pre-K teacher at WVES. The board also approved additions to the substitute personnel list for school nurse and transportation, pending completion of a driving test.

• approved the advertising and filling of a Central Office Administrative Assistant position to replace Ronnie Crabtree, who retired.

• approved a 2021 textbook committee.

• approved an additional $2,500 in contract pay during two semesters due to an unforeseen COVID issue arising in the Career Tech staff. Cunningham explained this compensates Lee Freeman for additional work on top of existing duties.

• approved the November and December financial statements.

• approved Feb. 25 as the date of the next school board meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. in the conference room of the Central Office.

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