[An error in line one identifies these
minutes as April 13, 2017; but these are the minutes of May 11, 2017]
The Beauregard Parish School Board met in regular session Thursday, April 13, 2017, at 6:00 pm in the Central Office Board Room. The following board members were present: David Vidrine, Darrin Manuel, Don Gray, Timothy Hudson, Martha Jackson, Wesley Taylor, L. D. Spears, Kathy Bruner, Ray Bowman, and Student Representative Tabitha Deer. Cassie Henry was absent.
Timothy J. Cooley, Superintendent, was present and acted as secretary.
The Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance were led by Scott Cornes.
After verifying that all board members had received the agenda, David Vidrine stated that he would accept a motion to adopt the agenda as presented. Upon motion of Darrin Manuel, seconded by Wesley Taylor, board members voted in favor of adopting the agenda as presented.
The next item of business was for board members to consider adopting the minutes of the April 13, 2017 regular meeting of the Beauregard Parish School Board as published in the official journal. Kathy Bruner offered a motion to adopt the minutes of the April 13, 2017 regular meeting of the Beauregard Parish School Board as published in the official journal, which was seconded by Darrin Manuel. In discussion, David Vidrine stated that he wished to amend the minutes to note that the Assistant Superintendent vacancy notice was also sent to a regional newspaper, the Lake Charles American Press, and offered a motion to that effect. The motion to approve the amendment to the minutes was seconded by Wesley Taylor, and approved upon voting. Next, Wesley Taylor offered a motion to adopt the amended minutes, which was seconded by Timothy Hudson, and approved upon voting.
Superintendent Tim Cooley started the Superintendent’s Report by advising board members that the Beauregard Parish Choir Festival had taken place earlier in the day. Mr. Cooley thanked Mr. Joslin and the vocal music teachers for the work they did organizing the event and recognizing these students.
Board members were reminded that the deadline for submission of their annual Personal Financial Disclosure Statements was Monday, May 15.
Mr. Cooley thanked students, teachers, central office staff, and Kari Ifland for a successful production of the Beauregard Students Write, the publication that showcases the writing talent of students in grades 1-12.
Board members were advised that their folders contained information regarding the graduation activities and awards programs for each of the schools in the parish.
Mr. Cooley congratulated the softball teams at East Beauregard High School and DeRidder High School for making it to the state semi-finals. In addition, the baseball team at South Beauregard was playing in a state semi-final game at the time of the school board meeting.
The Teacher Leader Summit will take place June 6-9, 2017, and Mr. Cooley noted that this scheduling is the reason there is an item on the agenda to consider the date of the June board meeting. Mr. Cooley informed board members that many teachers, counselors, and central office administrators would be in attendance. The purpose of this summit would be to introduce many of the changes which will be implemented for the 2017-2018 school year.
Board members learned that Mac Arthur Spikes would have his contract renewed with the effective dates of November 14, 2017, through November 13, 2019.
To conclude the Superintendent’s Report, Mr. Cooley explained that Kim Hayes would present information on the National Math/Science Initiative (NSMI) grant. Ms. Hayes spoke briefly regarding this grant being awarded to DeRidder High School, which qualified for this grant based on the number of children whose parents are connected to the military. The 3-year grant focuses on career-readiness for these students, by ensuring that they have access to challenging coursework. The program dramatically increases the number of students who earn qualifying scores on the Advanced Placement (AP) tests in math, science, and English. The grant will provide multiple professional training opportunities for AP teachers.
Next, the board heard recommendations from the Finance Committee. The first recommendation was a motion to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for independent auditing services for FYE17, using last year’s audit proposal as a template, making the appropriate changes to the dates and timeline for the current year. There being no additional discussion, the motion was put to a vote and was approved unanimously.
The next recommendation was a motion to accept a proposal submitted by Champeaux, Evans, and Hotard Architects, for architectural services for the East Beauregard High School weight room project. There was no further discussion and the motion was approved upon voting.
The final recommendation from the Finance Committee was to adopt a resolution concerning the Industrial Tax Exemption, with the actual percentage to be determined at the regular board meeting. Board members paused briefly to look over the resolution which had been provided. Mr. Vidrine explained the Industrial Tax Exemption as it was prior to recent legislative changes, when the state granted the exemptions, and how it is currently expected to work with local entities being given the authority to approve tax exemptions. Board members discussed the pros and cons of setting different percentage rates for any such exemption request, and were advised that such factors as job creation, economic impact, and so on, could be taken into consideration, as could non-compliance with any factors which were used in granting the exemption. Mr. Vidrine commented that he felt the other entities, the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Beauregard Parish Police Jury, would be setting their exemptions at 40 percent. Board members were informed that should the various entities select differing rates, the state would use an average of the different rates to set the rate of any tax exemption granted. In addition, board members were advised that the initial exemptions would cover a five-year period, after which an additional exemption of up to three years could be negotiated. After additional discussion, Wesley Taylor offered a motion to set the Industrial Tax Exemption at a rate of 40%, which was seconded by Timothy Hudson, and approved upon voting. In response to a question about whether the motion should have specified that the exemption was for 5 years, board members were advised that because 5 years had been discussed and was the maximum term length provided by the state (with an additional three years possible), it would be assumed that this would be the term of the original tax exemption.
The next agenda item was to hear a recommendation from the Policy Committee, a motion to approve revision of policy File:JGB, School Wellness, with final adoption in June 2017. Concern was expressed that the wording of the policy “.... Foods and beverages will not be used as a reward, or withheld as punishment for any reason, such as for performance or behavior,” seemed to prohibit even celebratory events, such as class pizza parties for reaching certain goals. Mr. Bowman offered a motion to strike the words “used as a reward, or” from #3, under Other Food and Beverages Provided, but not Sold, on School Campuses, making it read, “.... Foods and beverages will not be withheld as punishment for any reason, such as for performance or behavior.” Mr. Herrington explained how the wording was developed, with input from Terrie Smith, School Food Services Supervisor, to be the least restrictive and still meet all federal and state guidelines. In Mr. Herrington’s opinion, making the suggested change would be permissible and would allow a policy to be established prior to the June 27 deadline. If for some reason, the wording change was found to be inadequate, the board could revisit the issue at that time, according to Mr. Herrington. The motion to strike the words “used as a reward, or” was seconded by Darrin Manuel and approved upon voting. Next, board members were advised that they would be voting to approve the motion to revise the amended policy File, JGB, School Wellness, with final adoption in June 2017. The motion to accept the amended policy was approved, upon voting.
The next agenda item was to consider going into Executive Session, under R. S. 42:17 to interview applicants for Beauregard Parish Assistant Superintendent of Schools. Mr. Vidrine noted that the Executive Session would first establish procedural guidelines for the interview process. The motion to go into Executive Session under R. S. 42:17 was offered by Kathy Bruner, and seconded by Don Gray. Following the Executive Session, Kathy Bruner offered a motion to come out of Executive Session and re-enter regular session, which was seconded by Ray Bowman, and approved by general consent.
Next, Mr. Cooley stated that it was his pleasure to recommend Marlin Ramsey as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Beauregard Parish. Darrin Manuel offered a motion to accept the superintendent’s recommendation to appoint Marlin Ramsey as Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Beauregard Parish for a period of two years. The motion was seconded by Ray Bowman and approved upon voting.
The final item on the agenda was to discuss the date of the June board meeting. Mr. Cooley advised board members that because of a Teacher Leader Summit which was being conducted June 6-9, there would be a large number of supervisors participating. In response to a question about whether both meetings could be held on the same night, board members were told that it was possible, but would depend on the number of items expected to be on the agenda. In addition, board members were told that they would need to schedule a special budget meeting before the next regular meeting. Returning to the discussion about the date of the June regular school board meeting, Kathy Bruner offered a motion to have the regular board meeting on June 5 and to address all business at that time. Mr. Vidrine clarified that this would mean foregoing the committee meetings; and Ray Bowman seconded the motion offered by Ms. Bruner, which was approved upon voting. The next regular board meeting will be held on June 5.
Following the final agenda item, board members were asked to consider either May 22 or May 23, 2017, as a possible date for a special budget meeting. After considerable discussion on not only the date, but also the time of a special budget meeting, board members reached a consensus that May 23, 2017, at 9:00 a.m. would cause the least conflict.
There being no further business, Kathy Bruner offered a motion to adjourn, which was seconded by Mr. Vidrine, and approved by general consent.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE PARISH SCHOOL BOARD OF THE PARISH OF BEAUREGARD, STATE OF LOUISIANA, TAKEN AT A SPECIAL MEETING HELD TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017.
The Parish School Board of Beauregard Parish met in Special Session on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, at nine o’clock (9:00) am, in the Beauregard Parish School Board Central Office Annex, Lab B, at 205 W. Third Street, DeRidder, LA., pursuant to the following written notice given to each and every member thereof and duly posted in the manner required by law:
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that a SPECIAL MEETING of the Beauregard Parish School Board of the Parish of Beauregard, State of Louisiana, has been ordered and called and will be held on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, beginning at 9:00 o’clock (9:00) am, in the Beauregard Parish School Board Central Office Annex, Lab B, at 205 W. Third Street, DeRidder, LA.
*1. To receive 2017-2018 budget information.
Board members present were President David Vidrine, Vice-President Darrin Manuel, Ray Bowman, L. D. Spears, Cassie Henry, Wesley Taylor, Martha Jackson, Timothy Hudson, Don Gray. Kathy Bruner was absent.
Timothy J. Cooley, Superintendent, was present and acted as secretary.
The invocation and pledge were led by Darrin Manuel.
Superintendent Cooley began by describing the budget areas and which staff person had responsibility for each. According to Mr. Cooley, the ad valorem budget area was managed by Assistant Superintendent Marlin Ramsey, while the general fund was overseen by he and Finance Director Lesia Casanovas, with input from Kim Hayes. Mr. Ramsey described the sources of ad valorem revenue, explaining that tax collections account for a majority of these funds. Ms. Casanovas explained how the ad valorem revenue projection was developed and what factors might affect actual numbers, noting that ad valorem revenue appeared to be up very slightly over last year. Mr. Ramsey continued, explaining that while some costs are relatively static, others might vary considerably. Water leaks were a particular challenge this year and budget adjustments were required, but the city was able to offer some help with the costs. Moving on to expenditures, Mr. Ramsey noted that textbook expenditures were over-budget currently, but expressed confidence that this area would balance by the end of the year. Board members heard assurances that 95% of the ad valorem budget would be spent, as required by state law. Mr. Ramsey encouraged board members to consider funding textbooks from the reserve fund this year, since these one-time needs were relatively small, which would help reduce the overall deficiency. Mr. Ramsey also cautioned board members that a larger portion of technology needs would have to be met using ad valorem funds, since the bond funds were–for the most part-expended.
Following the ad valorem discussion, Mr. Cooley began discussion of the general fund budget area with a review of the revenue which is projected to be received in the general fund. Board members were told that approximately 91% of the general fund went to salaries and benefits. Other areas covered by the general fund includes regular programs, special ed. programs, career and technical education programs, student services, instructional staff support, general admin, school admin, business, transportation, and sports services. This places the expected expenditures at around $900,000 more than the projected revenue. Mr. Cooley reviewed the number of positions that would remain unfilled in an effort to control personnel costs: one maintenance position, one technology position, one vocational supervisor (added those duties to the food service supervisor), a gifted/talented position (due to student numbers), an elementary teacher (also due to student numbers), an office staff person at a school, one custodian, and one business department employee.
Mr. Cooley listed several revenue-increasing ideas, including expanding the pool of students for whom the Beauregard Virtual Program (BVP) would be an option, to include grades 6-8. According to Mr. Cooley, currently BVP is targeting students in grades 9-12. Board members discussed how BVP could be used to transition students back into the public school system, after having been withdrawn to home school.
Next, Mr. Cooley asked board members to consider setting the teacher classroom allocations back to their original amount of $100, reminding them that several years ago, the amount was raised to $150. Board members were advised that many teachers were not spending these amounts during the year, but waiting until the end of the year, stockpiling these materials to use during the coming school term. Returning this amount to $100 would save about $25,000 per year.
Another way to save money would be for board members to consider whether the In-School Suspension (ISS) Aides for elementary schools are necessary. According to Mr. Cooley, it might not be necessary at the elementary levels and would result in the cost savings of not needing a sub, should that person be out. According to Ms. Casanovas, last year the salaries of ISS aides came to $89,000 (not including retirement and benefits), and their substitutes when they were out, cost an additional $17,000. Mr. Herrington noted that the cost of substitutes in general is a major concern, across the board. Ms. Casanovas stated that substitute costs for the current year were already over budget, with April and May still to be reported. A suggestion was made to allocate a number of substitute-covered days per school, per year. Mr. Ramsey noted that this was already being done for professional leaves.
Next, Mr. Cooley advised board members that another way to reduce expenditures would be to make some adjustment to the Effectiveness Reward paid to teachers and principals who achieve specific levels of effectiveness on their annual evaluations. Board members were reminded that currently, the reward amounts are $750 (Highly Effective), $500 (Effective Proficient), and $400 (Effective Emerging). Mr. Cooley suggested that a savings could be realized if teachers with 3 consecutive years of “Highly Effective” ratings were allowed to have just one observation per year, and the reward amount be set at $500. Teachers with other effectiveness levels would continue to receive 2 observations each year and would earn $300 and $150, for Effective Proficient and Effective Emerging, respectively. The cost savings for reward payments structured as suggested–including benefits–would be approximately $122,000, according to Ms. Casanovas. There was additional discussion about observations and reward levels, and the best way to make future adjustments.
Next, Steve Newsom explained the need to replace aging buses in the fleet. According to Mr. Newsom, the original plan was to replace buses when they were 15 years old. As budgets became tighter, buses were pressed into service for longer periods and currently the buses for which replacement is being recommended are 1997-model, which means they are 20 years old. In addition, Mr. Newsom noted that the fleet currently has 10, 1998-model buses, which if replaced over a period of a few years, beginning next year, would have some buses in service that were 22-23 years old. In response to a question about contracting bus services for the parish, Mr. Newsom advised board members that although there would be an initial savings, there are other matters to consider. As a hypothetical situation, Mr. Newsom stated that if all of the buses were sold and the bus maintenance facility closed, and for some reason the contracted service didn’t work out, the board could be faced with replacing all 93 buses that currently make up the fleet, instead of the six or so buses per year currently being recommended for replacement. In addition, according to Ms. Casanovas, the Louisiana School Employees Retirement System would assess an actuarial cost of about $120,000 per bus driver lost, should the board choose a contracted service over school system employees. Another question arose about contracting with local drivers who owned their own buses. Mr. Newsom said that, in the past, this was problematic because drivers were paid a salary and maintenance costs, but tended to view both of these as salary–meaning that maintenance was often neglected on driver-owned buses. Mr. Cooley advised board members that allowing buses to be purchased (at a cost of $522,000) from reserve funds would place the budget within $350,000 of being balanced.
Mr. Cooley asked board members to also consider that school food services are another area for which general fund support is needed annually. This year the expenditure is expected to be around $600,000. Discussion is ongoing regarding ways to reduce costs in this area.
Moving to a discussion of long-range planning, Mr. Cooley stated that it might be time to look at the percentage of the sales tax collections which are used for salaries, given the fact that state monies continue to dwindle, while costs continue to rise. In addition, another cost-cutting measure might be to reduce the size of teaching staff at each school by one position. Doing so would save a substantial amount of money, but at the cost of larger class sizes. Board members were asked to begin considering whether an assistant principal was necessary at every school. Mr. Cooley suggested that perhaps the decision of whether to have an assistant principal should be based on student numbers. Board members were asked to give thought to how buses and textbooks would be purchased going forward.
Board members were notified of several immediate changes. Mr. Cooley stated that very soon, he would have to replace Steve Newsom as Director of Transportation. Also, according to Mr. Cooley, with Mr. Ramsey’s appointment as Assistant Superintendent, Ms. Hayes has assumed duties coordinating curriculum in all areas, and Mr. Cooley requested that board members consider allowing her role to become the Director of Curriculum, which would allow her to work with the supervisors in all areas of curriculum, as well as serve as the liaison for contact with the Louisiana Department of Education. Board members learned that this would cost only around $250 per month, a relatively small increase. In addition, board members learned that another instructional supervisor was likely going to retire sometime during this summer.
Board members discussed whether to try to have another meeting to take action on the suggestions that were given and Mr. Vidrine reviewed these for everyone. After deciding that another meeting would be difficult to coordinate with everyone’s work/vacation schedules, upon motion of Wesley Taylor, seconded by Cassie Henry, board members voted to expand the Beauregard Virtual Program to include grades 6-12; to establish effectiveness reward payments at $500 for Highly Effective ratings (with teachers rated as highly effective for three consecutive years being evaluated only once per school year), $300 for Effective Proficient ratings, and $150 for Effective Emerging, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year; and to budget buses and textbooks from fund balance with the goal of working toward covering these items in the operating budget. Upon voting, the motion passed by a margin of 8-1 (Spears.)
To end on a positive note, Mr. Cooley advised board members that End-of-Course test scores have been very favorable. The Jump Start program had a successful year, and WorkKeys has been successfully implemented. The pipefitting and welding programs had the first students in the State of Louisiana to complete 4 semesters of study. The National Math/Science Initiative (NMSI) will increase the number of Advanced Placement (AP) classes that can be offered to students, with at least 20 teachers attending training this summer.
There being no further business the meeting was adjourned.