McComb students who are curious about the art of hair braiding will get a chance to learn about it this coming year at the Business & Technology Center.

The school board on Tuesday approved a memorandum of understanding with Deidre Thompson, owner of Diva Stylz Braid School in McComb. Thompson will spend one 100-minute period each school day at the B&T teaching up to 25 students about braiding.

Questioned by trustee Kizzy Coney, Superintendent Dr. Cederick Ellis said the district will pay Thompson a total of $25,000 for the 2019-20 year. Students who complete the course will be approved by the state Board of Health to braid hair, but not by the Board of Cosmetology.

B&T principal Robert Biggs said he expects the class to fill up.

In another matter, the board tabled a proposal to seek a three-year, $900,000 grant to set up a “Star Academy” program at Denman Junior High School.

The program would provide non-traditional instruction for up to 80 seventh- and eighth-graders who have been held back at least one year to get them back to their grade level — in effect giving them two years of instruction in a single school year.

School officials delayed going after the grant despite a favorable letter from state Department of Human Services director John Davis, who said the agency would like to support McComb’s dropout prevention efforts. Davis did add that the grant is contingent on how much money DHS has available.

Ellis said the academy fits in nicely with McComb’s student-centered learning program. But the district still has to figure out how to pay for the four additional teachers that the academy would require. The grant money would not pay any salaries.

In other business the board:

• Approved a plan to provide $5,000 retention bonuses to all full-time state-licensed teachers. To get the bonus, a teacher must complete the school year and cannot have more than 10 non-school-related absences. New teachers with a five-year license who start work before Sept. 1 also are eligible for the same bonus. The money will come from the federal Title II program.

• Bought three new school buses for $276,000. One cost $96,000 and is designed to transport disabled students. It includes a wheelchair lift and 36 passenger restraints. The other two cost $90,000 apiece. All three buses feature air conditioning, heating and an interior camera system.

• Welcomed Germayne Nash as the director of facilities, maintenance and operations. James said she has 30 years of experience in facilities and maintenance management at Loyola University in New Orleans. Nash succeeds Jonathan McLendon, who retired in June.

• Approved financial statements for May. Revenue was $1.274 million, including $867,000 from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and $265,000 in property tax payments. Expenses for May were $1.433 million, including $1.074 million for payroll and $349,000 for goods and services. May 31 cash on hand was $12.667 million.

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