School board questions staffing requests

April 8, 2014 10:40:00 AM

Sarah Fowler - sfowler@cdispatch.com

 

The Lowndes County School Board held a specially called meeting Monday night to discuss the district's budget for the 2014-2015 school year. 

 

According to LCSD Business Administrator Lotis Johnson, the projected revenue for Fiscal Year 2015 is approximately $43 million. The district expects to receive $14.7 million in ad valorem tax, $6.6 million in in-lieu payments, $20 million from Mississippi Adequate Education Program and $1.7 million in revenue listed as "other." 

 

During Monday night's meeting, Johnson presented a list of requested hires at the New Hope, West Lowndes and Caledonia campuses.  

 

There were 15 requests for new hires at Caledonia, 11 for New Hope and five for West Lowndes. 

 

Superintendent Lynn Wright met with principals at each of the schools and discussed what he referred to as a "wants and needs list." That list was then handed to Johnson who adjusted her budget around the requests. However, the list that was handed to board members Monday night had several revisions. Board members questioned Wright on whether the list of proposed faculty hires was a "wants" list or a "needs" list. 

 

Speaking to Wright, board member Wes Barrett asked, "Based on the budget and the critical need is this what we need?" 

 

Wright responded that he had spoken with principals and the list reflected what they requested. He added that he was confident hiring the requested additional faculty based on the district's projected revenue. 

 

"I feel a whole lot better seeing our projected revenue," Wright said. "As we started out with the principals, that has been done in the past, you turn in your wants list, then you went back and prioritized it to try and justify it." 

 

Board member Bobby Barksdale said the district should not be hiring additional teachers if they are not needed, regardless of revenue projections. 

 

"Projected revenue is irrelevant," Barksdale said. "We're talking about what we need. You need to justify what they're asking for. There's no justification. This is basically a wish list. It's not showing us any justification in any of this. This paper says increased enrollment. Two kids could be increased enrollment. How many are in each grade? Do we need an extra teacher there because there are 30 kids in each class? This is just saying we need a first-grade teacher. There's no justification." 

 

Barrett added, "I just want to go down through it and you tell me, 'This is what we need and this is what we don't need'. If you need, just tell us so we can get it based on justification." 

 

Board attorney Jeff Smith warned the board members that they cannot dictate how many teachers are at a school. 

 

"We need teachers that we need," Smith said. "Not for luxuries, not for accessories but what we need. If board members start picking and choosing which teachers, it could be trouble. 

 

"If y'all start picking and choosing what's going to go to a school, y'all are going to get to in trouble. Y'all have to give them guidelines, but they have the say, based upon our guidelines and state law. Y'all can't sit here tonight and say we want Caledonia Elementary School to have three teachers and y'all have four. You can't do that." 

 

Speaking to Smith and Wright, Barksdale said, "Tell us, if they need a counselor, why they need one. Justify it." 

 

Barrett added, "Tell us what you need and we'll accommodate it." 

 

Board President Jane Kilgore asked Wright to go back and meet with principals and determine what is needed at each school and why. 

 

The revised list will be presented during Friday's regular board meeting.

Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.