Slabbed has an embarrassment of riches and I do not have the time this morning to do any of it justice. In no particular order:
Last week Slabbed was told by a source connected to Diamondhead City Government that Bay St Louis City Clerk Sissy Gonzales had interviewed for the City of Diamondhead Treasurer position with the Assistant City Manager in Diamondhead and that she would be leaving the Favre Administration. The agenda for the next Diamondhead City Council meeting indicates the Treasurer’s position would be authorized to pay up to $60,000. I would look for Gonzales to take the money and run.
Last night, the Bay Waveland School Board by a 3-2 vote extended the contracts of Superintendent Landry and her brother John McGraw the business manager by four years. Those voting yea were Bell, Kidd and Thomas. The action was taken after a lengthy executive session and according to one of the trustees in the executive session not authorized to speak for the School Board the action was taken against the advice of School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues. The contract extensions were not listed on the School Board meeting agenda in advance of the meeting according to Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, who also attended the School Board meeting.
Just weeks ago New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu was the darling of the national media with the New York Times even pumping Landrieu as a national political candidate after he removed the Confederate monuments from public display. Later today Slabbed will join the feeding frenzy on the Landrieu flash flood thanks to a reader that took an observation I made on Twitter to its natural conclusion. It is my hope the local media that has their teeth sunk into Mitch Landrieu’s hiney saves a bit of space for Slabbed to take a bite. 😉 This also illustrates why you should never get your local news from a national news outlet.
It is my hope the readers advance public knowledge of items 1 and 2 in comments, especially item 2, because the local school board really stepped out last night.
The dynamics between Bay Waveland Schools and Lumberton are very different. Lumberton is a small community in a long term decline thus the declining student population. Bay St Louis in particular is a community whose population skews older due to its popularity as a retirement destination. Regardless what is now a three vote majority on the School Board wants no part of even discussing the possibility of administrative consolidation.
Equally amusing but not quite as inane was the question about whether or not a school level administrative assistant (school secretary) had any contact with the children. My own experience is a teacher has a kid for a year, maybe two tops while the same child comes to the same office needing help at various times every year they attend school. By definition a school secretary would have more contact with the children over the long haul.
Just an observation but in all my time attending BSL Council meetings, never once did I see the previous council deny the Mayor such an appointment, even when the Mayor and Council were not otherwise getting along. That would have been true in February of this year had then Mayor Fillingame appointed Maurice Singleton to another term on the School Board.
Where the Superintendent’s report shown on the agenda is skipped (routinely) and the Business Manager brings budgetary information to the Board, including raising local property taxes by 4 mils percent, but forgets to bring all the backup documentation in case there were questions.
If you are imagining that all this went down last night on Second Street in Bay St Louis you would be correct. As for the public that was assembled wanting to learn about what is being down to improve the dismal 3rd grade reading scores….well those things are not discussed, at least in public anyhow.
In other news Slabbed has learned that a local law enforcement agency is investigating the public money the School District spent to send former School Board President Maurice Singleton to Denver Colorado after his term of office expired.
“Susan” is in good company as this is not Slabbed’s first rodeo on this general issue. I’ll add there are two tracks that can be taken to unmask anonymous commenters in civil and/or criminal with criminal being what I would term the fast track. There is a fair amount of law in this area that I will not go into but if I were the person behind Susan I’d lawyer up ASAP.
Next up is a very interesting read from the Hancock Supervisors meeting. If I were on the Board of Sups I think I’d want DMR Commissioner Jolynne Trapani at the next meeting to explain the deal that has been cut for the ice house no one knew anything about to be built on the beach in Hancock County.
Off books secret bank accounts in Mississippi local government is more common than one would think. Once uncovered nothing good ever happens for those involved, even if the secret account was created with the best of intentions. This is what Hizzoner told Wes for the above article:
Mayor Les Fillingame would not comment on the investigation but confirmed the officers’ resignations and terminations.
“None of these officers were targets into the investigation of former Police Chief Mike De Nardo, he said. “They all left for various reasons. I really cannot get into specifics because they are all personnel issues, but I can say that two of them left to take jobs at other departments.”
The “dog and pony” show that was put on for public view by the majority of the Bay-Waveland School Board, their attorney, Ronnie Artigues, and guest speaker, attorney Jim Keith on the night of February 15 led me to make a Public Records Request for the CD audio of the meeting.
Mr. Keith’s visit to the School District Board meeting was, I assume, at the suggestion of School Board Attorney, Artigues. The bill for his visit, however, will go to the taxpayers. Obviously the Advisory Opinion of Tom Hood, Director of the Mississippi Ethics Commission either didn’t impress Artigues or Keith, or they knew the majority of the board was dumb enough to follow their advice rather than an Ethics Board Opinion. This is not a first for this board and its attorney.
Artigues and Keith convinced the board, with the exception of Casey Favre, to defy state law.
Keith even went as far as to tell the board there were “other districts in the state that do this all the time.” When I confronted him after the meeting for the names of those districts, his reply to me was, ” I’d rather not name them. I don’t want them to get reported.” I replied, “Reported for what? You just told this board it was perfectly okay for sister and brother to work together in the Central Office in violation of State law.” I didn’t get any names.
Earlier this month we did a series of posts on K-12 education, the last one disclosing a meeting Slabbed had with Bay-Waveland School Board Trustee Mike Bell. The meeting, which included local parent volunteer Cami Cornfoot and Lana Noonan, President of the Hancock County Alliance for Good GovernmentTM dealt with the hiring of a new Superintendent of Education and the optics involving the fact the new Superintendent’s Brother was the existing business manager of the school district.
We covered a lot of ground over the ensuing two plus hours of discussing the state of the school district. I reserved judgment as I was in it for the information and I wanted to hear the School Board’s side of things. Lana on the other hand was pretty staunch in holding her position that the resulting nepotism from the hire of Vikki Landry looked awful. Simply put, Lana held Trustee Bell’s feet to the fire as they would eventually nicely agree to disagree on the subject.
To kick start things we need to re-visit Cassandra Favre’s January 27, 2017 story, BWSD may need 2 assistant superintendents, which left her readers (myself included) with the distinct impression the School District’s Central office expanded by one Assistant Superintendent solely to ameliorate the problems created by hiring the sister of the business manager as the Superintendent. Trustee Bell took issue with that characterization saying the addition of the second Assistant Superintendent was a discreet event that was not done to solve the nepotism problem involving Landry but rather involved a more sweeping reorganization of the business office in a move that cut the amount of local funds spent on Administration.
First what I found strange was both the before and after job description matrices we were presented showed the business manager answering organizationally to one of the Assistant Superintendents, a setup I had never seen in my 20 plus years auditing and consulting with Mississippi K-12s. Every other school district that I have first hand knowledge had the School Business manager answering directly to the Superintendent which makes sense given the job responsibilities handled by the School Business Office. The “before reorganization chart” was thus strange for lack of a better term because the arrangement would have had the Business Manager answering to his sister when she was Assistant Superintendent. Turns out that was not the case but before I get to that let’s visit with Kate Royals at Mississippi Today:
A bill removing a provision in the law allowing school districts to hire relatives of the district’s superintendents and principals passed the Senate on Wednesday.
State law defines a relative as a spouse, child, sibling or parent. The bill would, however, put in place a process for spouses of superintendents to be hired.
Trustee Bell also invited both Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government and Cami Cornfoot, a former Candidate for School Board who remains very active volunteering at the schools to sit in. We had a frank and wide ranging discussion, some of which will be covered in the next post.
To his credit Bell was proactive gathering information from the central office to share with us and that information included a list of top administrator salaries and how they were funded. As Lana pointed out that information alone has news value and it will be shared with the people that read Slabbed. We’re also going to address the toxic environment created by the void left by the departure of former Superintendent Becky Ladner. Hopefully we can distill a very complex and fluid set of circumstances that became evident at the last Board of Trustees meeting.
This much is clear from those observing the School Board, which was dominated by a single forceful personality for the better part of the last 13 years. It now has five individuals that are of five different minds that are working in what is new territory for each. I used the term “fractious” to describe the Board and not in a negative connotation. It’s a good sign the system is working like it should.