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BOE tackles budget issues

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

A budget, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for Calhoun School, redistricting and trust funds were all part of a busy slate of actions by the Lowndes County Board of Education at Thursday night’s regular meeting.

In the absence of School Board member the Rev. Robert Grant, the board also dealt with legal and personnel matters and approved a resolution in memory of Deundre Rudolph, the Central High School student who was tragically killed in a one-vehicle accident on the first day of school.

Under action items, the board approved a fiscal year 2012 budget.

“Our budget is basically set up to be amended,” said Marc Nicholas, chief officer of business and fiscal affairs for Lowndes County Schools.

He said the board approved a budget that includes state revenues of $11.3 million, federal revenues of $9.15 million, local revenues of $3.5 million and miscellaneous revenues of $41,000 for a total of about $24 million.

Nicholas said expenditures were about $23.5 million.

He said the school system carried over about $500,000 from the previous year’s budget. However, he said, the overall budget approved was less than last year because there were about $1.4 million less in federal revenues to fund salaries.

Nicholas explained that the budget approved is a “fiscal estimate” with an amendment likely in November. He said some state funds have not been allocated and the budget is due to the state by Sept. 15.

Also approved under action items was a Title I Corrective Action Plan for Restructuring (Year Four) for The Calhoun School.

School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd said if the school does not make adequately yearly progress this school year, the school would have to go through further restructuring.

He said options would include relocating 50 percent of the school’s staff to another school or to bring in an outside consultant to run the school. While he said the principal would remain, the consultant would be the point person directing things.

Boyd said the option of relocating teachers to another school is not viable because there would not be enough vacant school slots for that to work.

“That means we would have to have nine vacant slots at the secondary level, and we’ve never had that to happen,” he said.

As a result he said, “The only viable option we have in this particular situation would be to bring an outside consultant to run that particular school.”

When asked about optimism by Board member the Rev. Ben Davis, Boyd responded, “I’m real hopeful Mr. Davis, it takes a while to change the situation there. I do like some of the things that are going on with Mr. (Kenneth) Fair (principal) running the school there.”

“You have to change the culture and you have to change the mindset, and that just doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.

On the recommendation of school board attorney Sen. Henry “Hank” Sanders the board approved the same redistricting plan recently approved by the Lowndes County Commission and authorized Sanders to submit it to the U.S. Justice Department for pre-clearance.

Sanders told the board, “It really makes sense to have the same one (redistricting plan). It avoids a lot of confusion.”

Also on Sanders’ recommendation the board voted to stop action to appeal a Lowndes County Circuit Court decision in a case involving gifted teacher Paula Westmoreland. Boyd recognized Westmoreland earlier in the meeting for representing the Lowndes County School District at a meeting in Washington, D.C. regarding the Teacher Incentive Fund.

In another matter, the board voted to reconsider the three-day suspension of a schoolteacher.

Boyd reported to the board that the state Department of Education is no longer in the business of managing trust funds for school districts and they are being dissolved.

He said its was his recommendation that $2,000 of the original amount from the Marie May Elloit Trust Fund for The Calhoun School be used to place a plaque there dedicated to the family. And $28,000 to be placed in a fund source to cover the maintenance cost of The Calhoun School as well. School Board member Dr. Denise Davis Mae abstained from voting on this matter.

The board also voted to approve Boyd’s recommended that the Charlotte Thorn Endowment Trust Fund interest for the past two years and next year be used to pay the construction loan bond payment of The Calhoun School ($300,000 per year).

School Board President Steve Foster said that leaves a balance of more than $6 million in that fund.

“Seriously, it does show what people can do when their priorities are unselfish and they are pretty frugal,” he said.

As all Central High School football games will be played away this year, homecoming will be at The Calhoun School, and Boyd reported the school district will take care transportation costs.