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.
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:
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: