A time limit of one minute per board member was set on item discussions.
No solid resolutions were made, leaving several members of the board clearly frustrated.
The meeting adjourned after two hours of discussing the possibilities of cutting coaches back to an 11-month employment, as opposed to the current 12-month contract and reducing all principals, excluding the high school positions, to an 11-month employment contract as well - this would add up to $55,000 in savings.
Members also discussed the removal of $824,000 from the district’s SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) fund to cover summer maintenance fees recently expended by the school board. This idea was met with a great deal of controversy. Board member Harold Lumpkin expressed distaste over the matter stating the board was led to believe that the fees for summer maintenance would not be taken out of SPLOST funding. Lumpkin asked Superintendent Dr. Billy Pack if the removal of the $824,000 from the SPLOST fund would be considered a legal move, due to the fact that Polk County residents were not informed that the special tax would be used for summer maintenance?
Dr. Pack was not sure about the legality of the fund transfer. School board attorney Mike York was not present at the meeting.
“If we have no legal opinion on this, then how can we vote on it?” stated Lumpkin. Pack told Lumpkin that he would contact York at a later date to check on the legality issue.
Board member Guy Rutland was adamant in stating that he was against this move. “This was not what the people voted for when they voted to pass the SPLOST. We advertised in the newspaper what the SPLOST money would be used for, summer maintenance was not listed,” said Rutland.
Lumpkin echoed the opinion of Rutland stating that had he known the fees for summer maintenance would later be drawn from the SPLOST fund, he would have voted differently.
Beth Warner, board member, stated that she felt it would be better to take the money from the SPLOST fund to cover the summer costs, as opposed to raising the millage rate to pay for the expenses.
The discussion moved to the subject of Crossroads Academy, the county’s alternative school. In last week’s meeting, board members asked the school district’s Fiscal Department Business Manager, Alan Melson, to provide the board with the amount of local money the district spends on the alternative school. Members of the board have discussed phasing out the school in order to save money, since it is not a school they are mandated to provide.
Melson reported that the alternative school costs the district $200,000 in local funding. Roughly $150,000 of that figure is paid to the school’s principal and assistant principal.
The student body population of Crossroads Academy was estimated to be around 40 students.
“I want to look at that $200,000 we are spending and look at the possibility of selling the property that the alternative school is on,” said board member Frank Plant.
Lumpkin brought up the notion that phasing out the alternative school and cutting out the in school suspension program would save the board a minimum of $400,000.
Instead of cutting out the ISS program completely, the board discussed replacing the coaches who now supervise the program with para-professional teachers. The para-pros would be paid a lesser amount of salary, thus trimming ISS program costs by several thousand dollars.
The discussion then went back to the alternative school. Lumpkin asked Pack if he had any statistics on how many children in the alternative school were eventually rehabilitated and sent back to regular education classes. He also asked how many children were repeat visitors to the alternative school and how many students graduate.
“Basically, I want to know if we are doing any good by placing the children in the alternative school,” said Lumpkin.
Pack agreed to check on those statistics requested and present them at a later date.
Board member Bettie Faye Lewis suggested that the board look at all of the extra programs offered by the district, and see what could possibly be cut, instead of singling just a few programs for discussion.
Speaking on the subject of alternative school, Rutland favored the idea of implementing corporal punishment as a means of helping students with behavioral problems.
“I believe you need to get the paddle and straighten them out like that. By no means should you beat a child, but paddling makes them think twice about acting up.” Rutland added, “I’m willing to stay here until midnight, but this group is not willing to make any cuts and we are wasting our time sitting here.”
He made a motion to adjourn the meeting. The motion passed 4-3 to adjourn, with Plant, Lumpkin, Dr. Harold Wingfield, Tommy Sander voting yes and board Chairman Rick Lundy, Warner and Lewis voting no. Board member Regina Roberts was absent due to sickness.
No future meetings were scheduled as of press time.