March 19, 2013 10:40:18 AM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
The Columbus Municipal School Board began its March meeting with the swearing in of a new school board member. Angela Verdell was greeted with a hug and a kiss on the cheek by Mayor Robert Smith as she officially joined the board, replacing former board president Tommy Prude, whose term ended March 2.
"We are very happy to welcome Angela Verdell as our newest member of the board and we look forward to increasing the good things we are going to do," said Currie Fisher, who moved into the role of board president after serving as vice president under Prude.
"It's an honor and a pleasure to be able to serve the district in this capacity and I really look forward to serving with the members that are already on the board," Verdell said.
After Verdell's swearing in, Pastor R.J. Matthews approached the board and asked for an update on the Lee Middle School property. Matthews noted that his church, Kingdom Vision International, and Pastor Shane Cruse's church, Point of Grace, are both still interested in purchasing the property.
"As we know, time continues to go by," Matthews said. "You have viable options in front of you that are ready to go forward, to help the district go forward," he said.
Fisher told Matthews that he should receive some form of communication from the district this week regarding the property. Fisher did not elaborate on whether the district still plans to sell the property.
During the meeting, schools superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell publicly introduced Board Book, the new form of communication between the district and stakeholders. Board Book was first introduced during the February special budget meeting but Liddell took Monday night's meeting as an opportunity to further explain Board Book and its function. According to Liddell, Board Book is a means to provide transparency within the district by posting their agendas and supporting documents online. Liddell also introduced a new online professional development portal, described as maintaining "Integrity, Accountability and Fiscal Responsibility."
On the consent agenda, the board unanimously approved an inter-agency agreement between Community Counseling Services and CMSD. The annual agreement states that Community Counseling Service will provide additional counseling to students in need at no cost to the district.
"We want to make sure that our children have the counseling that is necessary and professional," Fisher said.
Deputy Superintendent Craig Shannon asked permission from the board to bid out food service, transportation and lawn service needs for the district.
According to Shannon, the food service is a four-year contract that is renewed each year. Transportation is also a four-year contract but is not renewed annually. Shannon said the CMSD currently pays to have its buses stored at Water's Truck and Tractor. Previously, the buses had been stored at Lee Middle School.
In the bid process, Shannon said the district would continue to pay for fuel for the buses but a company would need to contract their bus drivers.
Shannon also said the district is in need of full-time groundskeepers. The district used to have five full-time groundskeepers but currently only has one. Shannon said custodians have been helping by maintaining the grounds.
To date, the district has spent $27,230.75 on grounds keeping. In the 2011-2012 school year, the district spent $76,626.44 on grounds keeping.
Board member Jason Spears reviewed the bid standards and noticed that the contracts did not include passing a background check or drug screening. Shannon assured Spears the guidelines would be changed.
Board member Aubra Turner asked Shannon if he could compile an analysis on the cost of performing services in house versus contracting the services. Shannon said he would compile a comparison list.
Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Hughes appeared before the board and gave the monthly budget report. To date, CMSD has spent $21,589,500 out of its $40.5-million budget.
At the close of the meeting, Liddell reminded the board about the upcoming Parent Academy on March 25 at Brandon Central Services.
The next board meeting will be April 8 at Brandon Central Services at 2630 McArthur Drive.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.