Archive for the ‘Lincoln Parish School Board’ Category

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.

John Martin Hays: 1942-2014

08/10/2014

Lousiana Voice is reporting tonight that John Hays, 72, of Ruston, died this morning. His death was the result of complications from a long battle with cancer, Publisher Tom Aswell wrote.

For thirty-seven years, Hays published the Morning Paper, a weekly Ruston based independent tabloid style newspaper that was often the source of news stories no one else had the courage to print, let alone investigate.

In July 2013, Hays ceased publication, due he said to his health issues.

Some Commentary

“What the hell is this?! I ain’t printin’ that crap!! It ain’t news when the state republican chairman endorses a republican candidate for governor!!”

So spoke John Hays to me back in the fall of 1979, when as a volunteer with Dave Treen for Governor, I had been tasked with delivering to the Morning Paper office a press release from then GOP State Chair George Despot.

And that’s how a thirty-five year love/hate relationship began between the self-described “Yellow Dog Democrat” Hays and the conservative Republican Walter Abbott. Without question, Hays was one of the most important men I ever knew.

Much of what I have learned about local politics and how it works was taught to me by Hays over those thirty plus years.

I can state with gold-plated certainty that the relatively honest way that most Lincoln Parish governmental bodies conduct themselves is a direct result of those local politicians knowing that Hays was looking over their shoulder.

RIP John, I will miss you.

And thanks for all you taught me.

Schales Louisiana Elementary Teacher of the Year

08/06/2014
Tammy Schales, with husband Danny and daughters Lara and Ashlynne - 8/5/14

Tammy Schales, with husband Danny and daughters Lara and Ashlynne – 8/5/14

Louisiana Elementary Teacher of the Year for 2015, Tammy Schales, a fourth-grade teacher at Ruston Elementary, was recognized at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB). She was presented a plaque and cash stipend for her efforts.

In presenting the award, Achieve Coordinator Cathy Cox-Boniol noted that 91% of the students taught by Schales had improvements on their LEAP scores, and that her student’s reading scores had improved 50 points over a year’s time.

Schales said she had been blessed at Ruston Elementary with Principals Sonja Walker and Shavonne Garner-Price.

Said Schales, “(They) helped me convince a lot of fourth-grade children that they can read as well as anybody else.”

The board also heard from School Improvement Coordinator Donna Doss who reported on graduation rates for the district’s schools. Overall the district had rate of 85% of ninth-grade students who eventually graduated. Choudrant High School’s rate was 100%, it was noted.

The Building and Grounds Committee heard reports from Engineer Paul Riley and Architect Mike Walpole on projects at Choudrant High School and in the Ruston District.

Riley said that planning for the track project was progressing, and construction of the parking lot would soon bid. He also showed plans for the concession and storage area. He estimated completion in the Spring of 2015, weather permitting.

Walpole reported that projects at Hillcrest Elementary, I. A. Lewis, and Ruston Elementary would soon begin. Design and planning is already underway for the projects, which include new classrooms and traffic improvements.

The full board approved “substantial completion” of a couple of Ruston High School projects: The James Field turf and lighting, and the L. J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium improvements.

Business Manager George Murphy gained approval for the revised 2013-2014 FY budget.

See here the documents.


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