Archive for the ‘Lincoln Parish School Board’ Category

School Board Recognizes National Merit Semi-Finalists

10/09/2014

(L/R) RHS Principal Ricky Durrett, Nicholas Ruff, Austin Meng, Lincoln Achieve Coordinator Cathi Cox-Boniol

(L/R) RHS Principal Ricky Durrett, National Merit Semi-Finalists Nicholas Ruff & Austin Meng, Lincoln ACHIEVE Coordinator Cathi Cox-Boniol


There was some good news at Tuesday’s school board meeting – recognition of two National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists from Ruston High School (RHS).

Austin Meng is the son of Dave and June Meng. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA and scored a 35 on the ACT. A member of the two-time state championship RHS Swim Team, he has been inducted into the National Honor Society and serves as a Bearcat Mentor. Austin is the pianist for the Barnett Springs Baptist Church, is a fundraiser for Relay for Life and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and has participated in Operation Christmas Shoebox and Nicaragua Feeding Stations. Recently named the Rotary Student of the Month, he has been named the State Literary rally overall winner in both Algebra II and Geometry and won state titles in both the 400 Free Relay and 200 Free Relay during the LHSAA Division II boys state swimming championships. Austin plans to study the sciences or engineering in college and is considering Louisiana Tech, Georgia Tech, and Stanford universities.

Nicholas Ruff is the son of Michael and Sonya Ruff. He has earned a 4.0 GPA as well and scored a 32 on his ACT. Inducted into the National Honor Society, he is a four-year member of both the reigning state championship RHS swim team and the Bearcat Band where he currently serves as Band Staff Manager. A member of First Baptist Church in Ruston and its Youth Group, Nicholas also serves at Rolling Hills and is a volunteer swim coach. The proud recipient of two consecutive LHSAA Division II Boys state swimming championship rings, he is a nominee and participant in Louisiana Boys State and has also been named Rotary Student of the Month for this year. Although undecided on a college a major, Nicholas is considering engineering at Louisiana Tech, Louisiana State, or Texas A&M universities.

In presenting the two with plaques Tuesday night, Lincoln ACHIEVE Coordinator Cathi Cox-Boniol said, “We congratulate these outstanding young men on their exemplary academic performance and the splendid manner in which they represent the Lincoln Parish School District, and wish them the very best of luck as they continue in this prestigious competition.”

Indeed.

More on School Board Meeting

10/08/2014

As we had noted last night, the Tuesday night meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) started out with a surprise and a little bit of drama. The agenda was amended to add discussion of the school board/DA “loan” issue, at the request of Bill Smith, who often attends board meetings. As it takes a unanimous vote of the board to amend, it’s an iffy thing to get something that is controversial on the agenda.

However, District 9’s Lynda Henderson made the motion, and District 7’s Trott Hunt seconded it. And pass it did, with a couple of hesitant votes by members who had to think a bit before saying yea or nay.

Three members were absent last night, Eddie Jones (District 2), Michael Barmore (District 4), and Lisa Best (District 8).

When the item came up on the agenda later in the meeting, Superintendent Danny Bell began by explaining the Truancy Program and its history, and how it worked closely with the school system. He also said the program is supported via state and federal grants. In this case, Bell explained, the grant monies are late, and the DA’s office had a shortfall as a result.

Bell went on to say that after consultation with legal council, he felt he had full authority to make expenditures for services rendered that occur pertaining to operation of the district.

When Smith spoke, he thanked the board for the opportunity to address the issue, and asked whether the money was a “loan” or for “payment of services.”

Bell answered that in either case, he was within his authority to what he did. He said that he expected repayment by the end of the year. Bell noted that grants to the board from the feds or the state are sometimes late, and they have to temporarily make up the shortfall from the general fund.

By this time, District 1’s Mattie Harrison spoke up and had the following to say: “Mr. Bell, I would like to say in the future, so that we will have input on the questions coming from the public, and you also being our employee, that we have a letter addressed to the board to be on the agenda, and what it is about, so that we can address the questions correctly.” She added, “But I can assure you that if I’d had this in writing early enough, and put on the agenda correctly, that I would be able to help in situation so Mr. Smith would have a better understanding.”

Bell said that in the future it would be done that way.

Smith said then wasn’t questioning the truancy program, but just the way that it was handled. He again asked if the money would be repaid, to which Bell and his staff indicated that there was no absolute guarantee that it would be. It depends on when/if the grant money is forthcoming, they said.

District 11’s George Mack, Jr. spoke about his unease with the News Star’s Sunday news story, and the way it was reported.

Said Mack, “That article in the News Star, in my opinion, not speaking for any of my colleagues here, impugned the integrity of this board. I take exception to it.” He added, “It was done in poor taste, in my opinion. It never should have been written in the way it was.” He concluded, “Now, if that writer was here, I’d have some questions for that person. But they’re not here.”

Finally, we asked how a document that represented that it was from the school board could be signed by the superintendent without the knowledge of the board.

Board President Otha Anders said that “school board” may not refer to the board proper, but could mean the system or district.

Said Anders, “We use that term generally to refer to the whole system. Oftentimes, its not referring to the twelve of us who sit around here. We use that term to cover the entire Lincoln Parish system, instead of Lincoln Parish School Board. That might not be acceptable to some, but that has been a general practice.”

We did obtain copies of the pertinent documents that were discussed. See them here:

Expenditures July-September 2014
Invoice
Memorandum of Understanding

The board earlier had conducted a couple of items of business. They approved the award of bids for the Choudrant High School Track, and payment of the November salary supplement checks.

Here are the memos:

Choudrant High School Track Project
November Salary Supplement Checks

District Admits Another “Loan” to DA Last Year

10/07/2014

The Lincoln Parish School District “loaned” the Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Attorney’s office $30,000 a year ago, it was revealed at tonight’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB). Both times the action was unilaterally taken by Superintendent Danny Bell, without board review or approval.

The revelation came in response to a question by Lincoln Parish News Online on whether this year’s “loan” was the first time such a financial transaction had taken place between the two governmental agencies. Said Business Manager George Murphy, “This is the second year we’ve done this, and we got reimbursed last year.”

Asked if any of board members had been consulted, Murphy said they had not.

Bell and Murphy said there was no wrongdoing, but added that such an agreement won’t be done in the future without board approval.

The issue was not originally on tonight’s agenda, but got added at the request of Ruston resident Bill Smith. Surprisingly, the board voted unanimously to amend the agenda.

We will have more reporting later on tonight’s meeting.

School Board Loan to DA’s Office Not on Agenda

10/06/2014

A loan of $30 thousand by the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) to the Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Attorney’s office is not on the agenda for tomorrow night’s 6:00 PM meeting at the Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

See here the agenda.

Existence of the loan was uncovered by The (Monroe) News Star’s Education Reporter Barbara Leader, and published in the 10/5/14 edition of that newspaper.

Leader wrote that First Assistant District Attorney Andy Shealy asked for $10 thousand/month in “assistance payments” for July, August, and September. The money was for a truancy program the DA’s office administers for the school board, and that is normally funded by state and federal grants. Delays in reimbursement have caused “cash flow issues” for the DA’s office, Leader wrote.

The loan would be repaid no later that 12/31, wrote Leader, citing the agreement.

Neither board President Otha Anders, nor Superintendent Danny Bell would comment on the loan arrangement, wrote Leader.

Late last year, Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) documented efforts by the DA’s office to squeeze money from the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) and the Union Parish Police Jury (UPPJ) to cover ongoing expenses.

Among the routine reports to be heard by the board Tuesday are:

September sales taxes
Personnel

More on 9/2/14 LPSB Meeting

09/08/2014

Last week’s Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) meeting had several other items of interest, notably the introduction of the 2014-2015 budget and an executive session that dealt with the Copeland v School Board lawsuit that is almost fifty years old. The executive session lasted about thirty minutes.

A little over two years ago, a plan to redraw the Ruston School District attendance zones for elementary school pupils caused significant controversy. Many students were reassigned among the district’s four elementary schools, Hillcrest, Cypress Springs, Ruston Elementary, and Glenview.

The plans were developed in a series of secret meetings of the school board.

After the plan was implemented, the U. S. District Court relinquished supervision over faculty assignment, staff assignment, transportation, and extracurricular activities.

Partial Unitary Status for Lincoln Schools Granted – 5/25/12

However, the court retained supervision over Alma J. Brown Elementary lab school, Grambling Middle Magnet School, and Grambling High School at GSU, and the A. E. Phillips Elementary at LTU. Reportedly, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit want the Lincoln Parish School Board to fund construction of new facilities at the lab schools.

During the Finance Committee Meeting, Business Manager George Murphy presented the proposed 2014-2015 budget.

See here the budget summary.

Murphy said that while the budget proposed spending about $1.3 million more than expected revenues, the district still had ample reserve funds for the year.

Said Murphy, “It’s not anything we need to be alarmed about, but it is something the state may cite us on as far as having recurring deficits.”

The money is being spent on several capital projects, Murphy said. Among the projects is the Ruston High School (RHS) baseball field, Ruston High tennis facility, and playground equipment at elementary schools.

Murphy noted that while the fund balance has declined over the past several years from a high of about $40 million in 2008 to about $30 now, the funds were used for capital projects, such as the $4 million field house for the RHS football team.

In other business, the board hear from Chief Academic Officer Mike Milstead, who reported on the district’s Strategic Academic Plan. The plan contemplates educational excellence based on clearly defined standards, so that students can realize their potential.

Obamacare Chickens Come Home to Roost @ LPSB

09/03/2014

A provision of Obamacare that requires employees that work 30 or more hours a week to be “full-time” and eligible for medical coverage caused somewhat of a stir at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB). It seems that in addition to the 828 or so full-time employees (teachers, staff, and support), the district has between 200 and 300 part-time employees – substitute teachers, para-professionals, cafeteria, maintenance, and other contract employees that are paid by the hour.

Effective January 1, 2015, any of those employees that work more than 30 hours/week will have to be offered medical coverage. That would cost the district about $2 million/year if all the part-time employees are enrolled, said David Charpentier, of Brown & Brown Insurance, a consultant who has advised the board in the past.

Said Charpentier, “You can offer coverage to these individuals on the same basis that you offer it to everybody else, and you would have to find another approximately $2 million per year in your budget to do that.” He added, “Or you could ignore the issue, and the government would, after you sent your reporting package in where you self report in January 2016, the government would send you a bill for a fine of about $2.7 million, for not having offered coverage to a sufficient number of your full-time employees, as defined by them.”

When the discussion centered around reducing the hours of the employees to less than 30 hours/week, and possibly increasing their hourly pay to compensate, District Eleven’s George Mack, Jr. sharply questioned that plan.

Said Mack, “Here in Lincoln, it’s a question of equity and fairness. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is the law of the land, is it not? So our objective is not to circumvent the law. That’s not what you’re trying to do, is it?” Mack went on, “How do we mitigate, how do we balance, taking care of people that we’re responsible for?”

Business Manager George Murphy noted that last year the board staff had begun to make plans to implement the reduced hours, but the Obamacare decree was delayed for a year.

Murphy said the plan was not an attempt to circumvent the law, but was in fact compliance.

Said Murphy, “Every time that we’ve talked about this, the words that we’ve used is were doing this is to comply with the law.” He added, “To me, circumventing the law is we know about the law, but we’re not going to do anything about it.”

Murphy noted that several years ago when sales tax receipts declined, several dozen full-time employee positions were eliminated and replaced with part-timers in order to stay solvent.

Charpentier noted that many companies in the private sector are going out of business, because the can’t afford to pay for the coverage.

As the discussion ebbed and flowed, it appeared that most all the board members were resigned to the reduced hours plan.

We’ll have more reporting later on the rest of the meeting.

Lincoln Parish School Board This Evening

09/02/2014

The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) will meet today (Tuesday, 9/2), 6:00 PM, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street. The Finance Committee will meet just prior, at 5:45 PM.

Finance Committee Agenda

School Board Agenda

The 2014-2015 budget will be considered by the finance committee.

See here the summary and memo.

Among the reports the full board will hear:

August sales taxes
Personnel

Most Lincoln Parish School Board Members Unopposed

08/23/2014

All but three members of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) were unopposed for reelection by the close of qualifying yesterday.

Mike Barmore (District 4), Danny Hancock (District 5), Joe Mitcham, Jr. (District 6), Trott Hunt (District 7), Lisa Best (District 8), Lynda Henderson (District 9), Otha Anders (District 10), George Mack, Jr. (District 11), and Debbie Abrahm (District 12) were all elected without opposition.

In District 1, incumbent Mattie Harrison is challenged by Veda Emerson and Susan Wiley.

In District 2, David Ferguson is running against Eddie Jones.

In District 3, Curtis Dowling has an opponent in Mary Harris.

The election is set for Tuesday, November 4.

Qualifying Begins for Area Political Offices

08/20/2014

Qualifying begins today for several area political offices. Among the offices to be decided on November 4:

City of Ruston Mayor
City of Ruston Board of Aldermen
Town of Jonesboro Mayor
Town of Jonesboro Board of Aldermen
Town of Jonesboro Chief of Police
Lincoln Parish School Board
Jackson Parish School Board
Ouachita Parish School Board
Monroe City School Board
District Attorneys – Statewide
District Judges – Statewide

Here is a link to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website that updates as new candidates qualify.

Services for John Hays Tuesday Evening

08/11/2014

A visitation service for John Martin Hays, 72, of Ruston will be held Tuesday, August 12, 4 PM to 6 PM, Church of the Redeemer (Episcopal) Fellowship Hall, 504 Tech Drive, Ruston.

Mr. Hays died Sunday after a lengthy illness.

He is survived by his wife Susan Turpin Hays, daughter Leslie Weston, and son-in-law Bryan Weston.

Mr. Hays was the publisher of Ruston’s Morning Paper, a weekly tabloid that focused on local news and politics.


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