If the rest of the meetings of the Bay St. Louis-Waveland Board of Trustees are anything like the first one of this calendar year, which took place Monday night, you can safely say “There’s a new game in town!” And newly elected Trustee, Mark Kidd, representing Waveland, threw the first pitch.
Transparency, accountability, and communication are what he stated he is interested in moving forward, and move he did!!
On a motion by Kidd and seconded by the other Waveland representative, Mike Bell, Bay St. Louis representative, Casey Favre was elected Board President.
On reliable source, this was not the plan of some other Board members going into the meeting!!
The Superintendent then gave a report on the latest Test Scores with emphasis on the ACT test results. This ended up being an almost 15 minute monologue that excluded any real data on how the students actually performed with the exception of the Superintendent saying that she “thought” they came in somewhere around 4th Coast wide out of the 16 school districts tested . Trustee Kidd corrected that statement to reveal they came in 4th from the bottom or 13th with an average ACT score of 17.8. Does the Superintendent really expect the public to believe she didn’t have those results?
A review of the PARCC test results also showed the district having some serious issues in the Middle School, which obviously continues into the High School.
I reminded the Board and all present at the meeting that the Sun Herald published the results that were provided by the Miss. State Dept. of Education last month. Actually, those tests results should have been part of the Board Book provided to each Trustee prior to the meetings, but it wasn’t.
While the Board has many pressing issues, there are none that rise to the importance of how the students are performing in the classrooms and if they are prepared for college or the workforce.
Superintendent’s Ladner’s closing remarks on the test scores was, and I quote her, “It boils down to the teacher in front of the classroom.”
I respectfully disagree. While that is important, of course, everyone has a role to play, and that has to include the Administration and Board.
The School District’s Insurance provider, Stewart, Sneed, and Hewes had representatives present since the current coverage will expire January 31.
After a heated discussion between the representatives and the Board, a motion was passed to have the Board attorney draw up an advertisement to ask for bids from other agencies in an effort to bring the cost down from the current which is over $800,000.00 annually. The representative from Stewart, Sneed, and Hewes met with a little more force from the Board this year as opposed to last year when he stood down former Trustee Mike Benvenutti who then wanted to seek other quotes and was told by the insurance representative that they could not change their agent of record. Kidd and Bell pushed back this year, and other quotes are going to be coming in for review. Board attorney, Artigues upheld the legality of the decision by the Board to change the agent of record if necessary to secure a savings for the taxpayers.
Under Board input, Kidd delivered to the Superintendent and Business Manager a litany of financial information he wants by the February meeting including the title, job description, and pay scale of every employee and a detailed summary of travel expenses by employees going back 5 years.
The Superintendent assured him she has the right, by Board Policy, to pre-approve travel for employees up to $1,000 per request.
A review of the Board’s Policies under Fiscal Management and Reimbursements does give the Superintendent authority to pre-approve travel for employees, but does not contain the $1.000 figure. This seems awfully high and should be addressed by the Board as soon as possible and definitely no later than budget time which will be underway in April and May.
After recessing at 7:30 for an Executive Session that the Board Attorney said would take 5 minutes, the evening ended around 8:45.
This will be an interesting Board to follow going forward, and the Alliance for Good Government hopes to see the effort toward Excellence in Education, Integrity in Spending and Openness in Governing continue.
It’s the best approach for the taxpayers and can be an opportunity for growth for the Administration if Dr. Ladner chooses to co-operate.