City school trustees make policy changes, hire personnel
New Albany city school trustees met Thursday, primarily to approve a budget for the coming year, but the agenda included a variety of other financial actions and information in addition to personnel changes.
In his report, Superintendent Jackie Ford told trustees that the New Albany Boys and Girls Club is the recipient of a substantial grant by the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, which is a philanthropic organization set up by billionaire and GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons and his wife, Renee. “It will mean a lot of renovation, maybe an addition,” he said.
The club uses the former Ford School Gym and Ford said any changes proposed, which are likely to be extensive, will be brought to the school board for approval. He added that although he does not yet know what the amount of the grant here will be, “The foundation gave $5 to $6 million to the Boys and Girls Clubs. They (the local club) are shooting for the moon.”
Another part of the superintendent’s report was on school bus mileage and how extracurricular trips are paid for. He made no recommendation but trustees did discuss how school bus use charges are handled. Other schools put the expense for special use in the transportation, not in the athletic budget (for sports trips). A charge of 50 cents a mile covers fuel costs but not maintenance and depreciation, the board was told.
$1.50 charge is the board policy, Ford said, adding the legislature does allow non-profit organizations to rent the school buses but it is ultimately up to each board.
“We charge the Boys and Girls Club 50 cents a mile, but that’s been local only,” he said. “But that may expand.”
“We charge 50 cents to athletics and they budget for it,” he said. “Sometimes the booster club will pays or pays if they use something like the Barkley buses.”
The band is the group that usually takes the long trips. “But we don’t charge the band or cheerleaders or chorus,” Director of Accounting Services Suzanne Coffey said. “They have no control over their schedules (like the coaches do).”
“It’s all out of the same pot,” she continued. “It just makes them more accountable.”
“Are we breaking even on bus use,” board member Jill Shaw asked, and was told that only on field trips on fuel was that the case.
Trustee Brad Clayton asked if Ford could provide a fleet analysis and Ford replied that he would be happy to. He will compile use and age and other data of the 45 vehicles the district has in its fleet and get them to board members.
One annual large-ticket item handled was insurance.
Collins Insurance Agency owner Ray Collins appeared before the board to provide information on quotes for the district property and educators liability insurance.
Collins noted this is his 24th year to work with the board on this. “It goes all the way back to Sovereign Immunity,” he said, referring to the time when governmental bodies such as school boards were legally immune to lawsuit.
“I commend Mr. Ford and Mrs. Coffey on the great job they do with insurance,” he said, noting the paperwork is well done and all claims and forms are promptly submitted.
Collins said there were two major providers to consider: Hartford Chubb-National Union and Liberty Mutual, although he submitted proposals to five companies. “Union Standard and Hartford has been with you 10 years and they know what it costs,” he said. Collins said that company’s quote is about $5,000 higher than last year, which he said was really good.
Liberty Mutual gave a quote about $5,000 less, but cautioned they are new to this particular type of insurance, have never had to pay a claim and are not getting as much of the market as they anticipated, which makes them more likely to pull out in the future.
Collins recommended staying with Union Standard, as did Superintendent Ford. Trustee Clayton, who is relatively new to the board, asked about claim history with the company and Collins cited a recent potentially high claim that was handled well by the company.
Trustees unanimously voted to stay with the present company at a cost of $167,794.
The next item involved whether to provide a new financial benefit to those in the school system.
Trustees heard a presentation from a representative of Brightview Credit Union, proposing that the district become a member.
This would help teachers and other staff who had been members at other schools, she said, and would of course be open to staff, students and parents. “It’s a free employee benefit,” she said and told board members that several area districts and institutions are members including Lee County, ICC and Tupelo Christian Preparatory School.
There is no cost to the district although there would be some paperwork for staff who want to do payroll deduction payments. Mrs. Coffey said that would be no problem.
“We’re kind of like a bank, but not,” the representative said. The union offers various types of accounts, two-percent loans, Christmas and vacation clubs and credit starter and builder loans to help members improve credit ratings, she said. About the only thing the union does not do is commercial lending and some types of mortgages, although she said that is expected to be expanded later in the year.
Accounts are insured for up to $250,000, she said, and if an account grows larger it is simply divided into two. Membership can continue beyond graduation for the rest of a person’s life, if desired, she said.
“We are non-profit. We put money back in so we can give higher dividends” and other better rates, she said.
After discussion, the board unanimously approved joining the union. The union’s nearest office is at The Mall at Barnes Crossing.
In personnel matters, the board:
- Approved the resignation of NAES teacher Lydia Kimbrough who is retiring. They approved hiring Kayleigh Bishop to take her place.
- Approved the resignation of NAES teacher Amy Welborn. They approved hiring Beth Goolsby Matlock to take her place, pending release from South Tippah.
- Approved hiring teacher Christy Hardy to replace Florinda Atkinson at the NASTUC alternative school.
- Approved unspecified additions to personnel for the Special Education Extended School Program.
In other action:
- The board approved the current financial statement with Coffey noting that “Right now we are on track.” She did say that some things will happen in July and August that will affect the June totals, but they are anticipated.
- Trustees voted to rescind the old board policy manual, a paper document that appeared to be about four or five inches thick, and replace it with an electronic on-line version. Trustee Harris said he had read much of the new version and that it is “well-presented.” Superintendent Ford said of course “There are some bugs we will have to work out and it may not be available on the website by July 1,” but continued that it should be soon.
- Trustees approved changes to the athletic handbook, certified teacher handbook and classified employees handbook for the coming year. The major change is that the district will require all those in athletic programs to have insurance, rather than “strongly recommending” that they have it. Family insurance will be sufficient but the school may offer coverage at $53 or $65, depending on need, but the trustees agreed the question of liability and danger of lawsuit makes this necessary. The insurance will be required for all school activities that require physical activity, which does not include chorus or debate. Ford said the other changes in the handbooks are essentially cleaning up language and involve no substantial changes.
- Trustees approved a low quote of $11,872 from Marchbanks Specialty Company to replace the roof on the Middle School building that was described as being behind the cafeteria. It was not stated whether this is the first time this particular roof has needed repair.
- A request to approve a field trip from New Albany High School to Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon next March 16-23 not only failed but was removed from the agenda entirely. “Are we in the education business or the child entertainment business?” trustee Matt Harris asked. “What (educational) value is a trip to LA?” Others argued, and Harris conceded, that trips to Washington and even New York City do have some educational value. Lecia Stubblefield, who is director of curriculum, federal programs and transportation, pointed that that teachers often prepare a month-long unit to get students ready for a Washington or New York trip and be sure to provide value. Harris held to his point concerning the Los Angles trip, however, and pointed out that although there will be no cost to the school, the district will still have the liability. Superintendent Ford asked if board no longer wanted him to bring such trips before them and they did not want to go that far, again agreeing some trips have value, but the Los Angeles request died for lack of a motion, much less a second.
- Trustees approved renewing a contract with Millennium Consulting to provide network computer assistance from July 1 to June 30, 2015. “I thought we could do without it,” Superintendent Ford said, “but now I don’t see how.” The company monitors and configures school district servers and systems, something which cannot be done by local staff, he said. Ford was able to reduce the cost from $28,000 this past year to $20,000 by cutting out on-site visits. “It is well worth the $20,000,” Ford said.
- Trustees voted to appoint members Jill Shaw and Matt Harris to the Career and Technical School Advisory Committee. The previous appointees, Susan McClelland and Bobby Gault, are no longer on the school board.
- Trustees approved a list of proposed fund-raising events for the 2014-15 school year. (See separate story)
- The board presented Kelly Coltharp with a plaque in recognition of 24 and one-half years of dedicated service. Coltharp is retiring as Director of Special Services.
Trustees approved moving the date of the regularly scheduled board meeting from Aug. 4 to July 31, at 5:30 p.m. The reason for the move is that Aug. 4 will be the first day of classes for the fall semester.
(there is a photo of board president Jerry Tate presenting the plaque to Kelly Coltharp)
About Lynn West
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