By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
All members of the Tuckr County Board of Education were present to discuss the school levy, evaluations, and 2020-2021 school calendars. The meeting began with Tracy Teets, Finance Director, providing the fiscal year 2019 annual examinations for DTEMS and TCHS to all board members. Teets highlighted some of the key points of the report, explaining, “When the auditors come in and they do this examination, they look at everything with the materiality threshold, they look at everything in their sample as how many deviations did we see in total and does that constitute the level of the finding.” However, the auditors only choose one school per year, therefore when Teets does the other two schools’ financial reports, she evaluates everything versus just a sample. “I think, in general, this report is way more comprehensive than what the auditors would give us when they go to a school,” she added.
She began with TCHS stating that Principal Stephen Cosner and Finance Secretray Doris (DeDe) Bunnel do a fantastic job with their finances. “The biggest thing I think we need to address at the high school is the football boosters organization requirements because their funds are not housed with our funds at the school, that they’re required to follow the same procedures that we do and we just don’t have that communication going back and forth,” she explained. This will be addressed to ensure everyone stays in full understanding that the proper procedures are being followed and lines of communication remain open. Teets stated that neither she nor the school is assuming any improper handling has taken place.
Shifting to DTEMS, Teets began, “We’ve got some more regular type issues that we need to get a handle on,” though she said they have made progress and understand these areas of concern. “They are actively working on getting those fixed,” she confirmed. Some areas noted on the reports were repeat findings from the auditor’s report last year. Board member Cathy Hebb asked how concerning that was to Teets. She stated some of the areas were easily fixed and already handled, however if the auditor’s were to find the repeats in their evaluation rather than hers, they would have been a lot harsher in their final report on the school. Superintendent Alicia Lambert announced to the board that Teets does have both schools preparing an action plan as to how they plan to address the concerns she discovered.
The meeting relating to the Board of Education building was canceled and will be rescheduled and the creation of the Game Administrator position will remain tabled. The meeting moved to the creation of a school counselor position at DTEMS which Teets provided statistics relating to options and position sustainability. Board member Chris Gross asked what was left in the budget after the purchases and other positions were allotted for, though that exact number wasn’t available at this meeting. “My biggest concern is we’ve neglected our facilities for years, we really have,” Gross said. Lambert suggested an overview could be sent out to show what money has been spent where and what is left before moving forward, the item just needed to be on the agenda due to upcoming staffing changes and modifications being addressed. Unfortunately, due to the shutdown, it will be difficult to gauge any future financials. Hebb suggested approaching the counselor position similarly to the nurse, with part time being served at DTEMS and part at TCHS; however, Board President Tim Turner disagreed, “I think each building needs their own.” Counselor Ronda Adkins added to the discussion, saying, and “Right now you have Davis Thomas that is severely underserved.” Hebb felt it was worth discussing as this would add another counselor at the high school, for example, every afternoon and a counselor at DTEMS every morning versus where they are now. Discussion followed as to the population at each school, the certifications needed, and the bottom line of how the positions would be funded. Kathy DiBacco, retired school nurse, added she has always believed a second nurse was needed to properly serve all three schools that are geographically spread out. DiBacco also explained the difference in a certified school nurse versus hiring an LPN and what each position would be permitted to do or not do. Lambert asked for the board to give her an answer how to proceed by Friday.
The board was notified of a student at TCHS and DTEMS transferring to homeschooling as the meeting moved forward. Consent agenda items followed with a motion by Vice President Daniel “Chopper” Evans and a second by Board member Jessica Wamsley. The minutes from the previous meeting were approved, all out of state travel has been canceled, and payments were approved as presented.
Moving into personnel, Evans requested an executive session. Upon returning, Turner announced no decisions were made. Lambert moved into recommendations which include the following: the resignation of TCHS Principal Stephen Cosner, effective June 30, 2020, and the employment of Paul Pacella, Wendy Wolford, Marcy Gilbert, and Amber Hebb as substitute teachers for the remainder of the school year, and April Waybright as substitute cook. All were approved pending appropriate requirements and certifications met.
Budget adjustments and financial statements were reviewed with Teets highlighting an area of the February Financial Report. She received notification that Federal Forestland Funds will be coming to Tucker County Schools. “It’s not the $120,000 we used to enjoy,” Teets stated, but the amount is over $80,000. It is unsure how the shutdown is going to affect the financials of the school systems at this time, though Jonathan Hicks, Director of Support Services, noted a substantial loss from the meal reimbursements will take place. Turner feels being in a state of emergency, logistics of the meal programs and other areas of operation will be handled accordingly.
Teets also provided a substitute cost report with Hebb commending TCHS in better standings; however, Teets pointed out TVEMS is not in the best of standings as well as DTEMS being slightly over. Hicks stated subs will still be called out to assist with the food deliveries being sent on the bus routes.
There was a proposal in the amount of $2,700 for Asset Control Solutions, which Teets explained as a requirement for the insurance value update. “I did contact the only other vendor I know of in the state and they were double this price,” she added. All were in favor of approval. Still within the parameters of quotes was for the special education classroom cameras, priced at $35,808. Hicks explained that these cameras can be added into with additional equipment and programs in the future if desired. These cameras also feature a blurring capability if the need ever arises. Hebb made the motion with Evans making a second to move forward with the camera purchase agreement.
While reviewing the calendar of events, Lambert stated that, as of the time of the meeting, they were permitted to continue with their board of education meetings. A public calendar hearing is scheduled for Monday, April 6 at 4:30 p.m. with a regular board meeting to follow.
At the adjournment of the regular session to review the proposed levy rates with an overview made by Teets, she showed the board what amount gets subtracted from their state aid and explained the schedule. All voted in favor of the proposed levy rate which adjourned this special meeting.
The board also went into a public calendar hearing meeting. “We had the options listed and then we had the proposed 20-21 school calendar,” stated Turner. “I think all four of them are pretty thoughtful,” stated Wamsley as Attendance Director Amber Kyle offered to explain the process in development of the options. She stated, “We created an online survey for Tucker County Staff, and we sent that out in an email form and 101 responses were received.” Kyle continued, “We created an online survey for Tucker County parents through the Facebook site and we had 204 responses.” Discussions were held with administration and staff at their meetings where four calendars were created. Calendar A was developed from everything that received the highest votes in the survey, which includes starting the week of August 10, two full weeks at Christmas, Thursday, Friday, and Monday guaranteed off with OS days Monday through Wednesday for Easter Break, the students would start on a Monday, and teachers last day on June 3. Calendar B is mimicking this year’s school calendar with school beginning on August 19 for students, thirteen days off for Christmas, Thursday through Monday off with OS days Monday through Wednesday to make up Easter break, and the last day would be June 4. “Then I built a calendar that seemed the most logical approach for what we really needed, which is calendar C,” Kyle stated. Teachers would begin August 19 and students the 25th, 13 days off for Christmas with an OS day being used if a snow day occurred prior to Christmas break, Thursday through Monday guaranteed for Easter, OS days would be placed at the end of the calendar where the last day could go as late as June 10. The final option labeled calendar D is similar to C, but the OS days are added for a full week for Easter break and the last possible day June 9.
Kyle stated that considerations were made in reference to the state and county fairs, SAT school days, and other suggestions made by the school such as Presidents Day. Once the survey results were put into the calendar formats, they were sent out to the staff for voting. Calendar A which contained all of the highest voted criteria only received 10 votes, B received eight, C 69 votes, D received 7, two people didn’t have a preference, and 59 did not vote. “I think the only request we did not honor was the day off after Daylight Savings Time,” laughed Lambert. Another calendar public hearing will be held on April 6 so the board can vote on it later that night.
This concluded the three meetings for the Tucker County Board of Education on Monday, March 16. The Board will convene again on April 6 beginning at 4:30 p.m. at the Tucker County Board Office.