School board accepts grant for dropout program

November 30, 2012 10:01:32 AM

Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]


A controversial grant, intended to fund the city school district's dropout prevention program, was accepted by the board Thursday morning in a sometimes contentious three-hour special meeting.  


Earlier in the month, board members voiced concerns about the legal implications of accepting the $75,000 Walmart Foundation grant, which was issued to a local nonprofit, Ginomai Ministries, on behalf of the district.  


At the Nov. 15 board meeting, board member Glenn Lautzenhiser made a motion to accept the grant, but the motion failed for lack of a second. It was later revealed that the check had already been deposited into the district's bank account without the board's knowledge.  


Board attorney David Dunn and superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell acknowledged Thursday that a district employee failed to follow protocol when depositing the check. They assured the board that the action was "an irregularity." 


The board voted 4-1 to send the money back to Ginomai Ministries on the condition that they sign a memorandum of understanding with the district and issue a new $75,000 check directly to CMSD.  


Board member Aubra Turner cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she felt the money should be returned to Walmart.  


But Dunn disagreed, saying the district has spoken with Walmart officials on two separate occasions and the money is where they intended it to be.  


"This is the proper, legal process to go through," Dunn said. "Walmart does not want the check back." 


"I understand they may not want the check back, but it's just doing the right thing," Turner said. "I just think that would be the proper and right thing. And if it's for Ginomai Ministries, then let us send the check back to (Walmart) and let them mail it to Ginomai Ministries the correct way." 


"Duly noted," board president Tommy Prude interjected, cutting the dispute short and calling for a motion to return the check to Ginomai so it can reissue a check to the district.  


After being reassured by Dunn that passing the resolution would allow the district to legally accept the grant, Lautzenhiser made the motion, seconded by board member Currie Fisher.  


Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Hughes, who was sitting in the audience, raised his hand on four separate occasions during the grant discussion, asking to speak, but he was not acknowledged. After the meeting, he declined to elaborate on what he had intended to say. 


At the request of Dunn, the board also voted 4-1 to amend the minutes of the May 31 meeting to "make the minutes accurately reflect what happened." 


The section of the minutes that will be amended deals with Liddell's salary for her three-year term as superintendent.  


According to the terms of her contract, Liddell will receive a base salary of $150,000 this year, $159,970 the following year and $173,017.33 for 2014-2015.  


Turner cast the dissenting vote against the motion. At the end of the meeting, she resigned from her post as board secretary.  


No members of the public attended the 7:30 a.m. meeting, and The Dispatch was the only media outlet present.  


The board voted to hold its annual board retreat Jan. 19 and conduct Liddell's annual performance review Jan. 26.

Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.