A couple of thoughts on last night’s recessed BSL City Council Meeting

Sadly folks, City Clowncilmen were spotted. Just a thought, but using a school board appointment to fight a political consultant’s third party agenda is ill advised on so many levels, including and especially invoking a new found love for ethics in government involving a school system which has systemic issues complying with basic state mandates on the subject [Lana Noonan’s first hand account for Slabbed is here]. Whoever put that bug in Councilman Buddy Zimmerman’s ear did well in making him appear to be a Clowncilman rather than a Councilman.

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.

I am told the reason Singleton was not reappointed when his term of office expired was because then Mayor Fillingame was trying to leverage Singleton into qualifying for City Council against Ward 3 Councilman Reed. It is for that reason that Slabbed presented this post, and accompanying artistic rendition of a Toolman. Last night’s short meeting was the final chapter in that particular saga, such chapter titled “disposal”. Continue reading “A couple of thoughts on last night’s recessed BSL City Council Meeting”

Imagine a School Board meeting……

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.

We have a complaint plus an election: A playing on the internet update

The mistake was lifting Ms. Ladner’s profile picture and marrying it to a fictitious profile bearing her name.

Identity Politics: The ‘real’ Susan Ladner files identity theft complaint with sheriff’s office ~ Dwayne Bremer

“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.

Supers hot over ice house proposal ~ Dwayne Bremer

Just a thought but if this tidelands funded construction project is being dictated from on high in Jackson look for the usual suspects to be feeding from the trough.

Next up we had a new commenter stop in with us yesterday leaving his opinion of the current state of the Bay-Waveland School District. Brandon’s comment echoed an anonymous letter to Mayor Fillingame that has been making the rounds: Continue reading “We have a complaint plus an election: A playing on the internet update”

ICYMI: It Stinketh on both ends of the coast…..

Nunn Yabidnez was kind enough to give us his take on the Pascagoula’s mayor’s race in comments. It also pairs up well with Tyler Carter’s article last week in the Mississippi Press:

Pascagoula mayoral candidate addresses speculation regarding his residency

A few more links:

Eighteen candidates qualify for municipal races in Ocean Springs ~ Warren Kulo

Who’s running for city offices? Several Coast mayors face challengers ~ Paul Hampton

Over on the West side what we have is the proverbial culture of corruption:

Bay officers fired amid federal probe of ‘secret’ account, officials say ~ Wes Muller

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.

He was a little chattier with the Sea Coast Echo’s Dwayne Bremer:

“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.”

It is at this point that I will disclose a number in the number 6. Continue reading “ICYMI: It Stinketh on both ends of the coast…..”

Other Voices | Lana Noonan: The Devious Bay Waveland School District

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.

Hood’s Advisory Opinion pertained to the school board appointing Vikki Landry Superintendent. She is the sister of the Business Manager, John McCraw. Long story short, the ethics opinion cited state law and an AG Opinion prohibiting such nepotism, and held that one or the other should resign their position. The brother sister team could not serve together.

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.

My experience in acquiring the audio of this meeting is evidence of the devious behavior that goes beyond the board and their attorneys. Continue reading “Other Voices | Lana Noonan: The Devious Bay Waveland School District”

It’s all relative: Senate Bill, Ethics Opinion put the Kibosh on School District Nepotism

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.

This bill was sponsored by Sen. Grey Tollison at the request of the Mississippi Ethics Commission. Continue reading “It’s all relative: Senate Bill, Ethics Opinion put the Kibosh on School District Nepotism”

Education still topical behind the scenes here at Slabbed

Those following Slabbed on Twitter saw that yesterday I met with Bay Waveland School Board Trustee Mike Bell. The following Tweet of Cassandra Favre’s story in last Saturday’s Echo was the catalyst:

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.

Stay tuned.

Education Funding on my mind…….

Slabbed’s Twitter timeline tells the tale. In no particular order:

Continue reading “Education Funding on my mind…….”

Guest Post: Bay-Waveland School Board Budget Hearing – A New Ballgame

The Bay St. Louis-Waveland Budget hearing Monday night was a whole new ball game as compared to the last 15 years. Not only was the Administration called on to justify their spending, but the public was actually invited to speak and ask questions.

The School District Budget report distributed to the audience last night claims a per pupil spending $11,083.00 to educate each child in the Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District. While the Superintendent stated they are underfunded $700,000 by the State, it appears we are doing just fine without State Funding because $11,083.00 is more than it costs to educated a student in our local private schools.

But what are we spending this $11,083 on?

Locally Under Major District Maintenance Expenditures the Instructional Budget ($297, 931) came in way behind Insurance ($794,307), Utilities ($900,670), and Transportation ($834, 500). Bringing up the rear were School Nurses ($180,000) and Maintenance ($127,000). Remember folks, the more we continue to play with bricks and mortar the more our Maintenance Budget will be and the Administration seems to be addicted to Architects and Engineers.

Under Administrative Costs, of the 14 Coast School Districts listed, we are the second highest percentage wise. That has pretty much stayed the same since a survey the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government did on Coast School District Administrative Spending in 2010.

The Superintendent and Business Manager defended their Administrative spending with regards to the low enrollment 0f 1,924 by saying that no matter how small a district is, the State still requires the same number of administrators. Well, there is your best argument for one School District in Hancock County. Why should the taxpayers in a county of only 45,000 residents, a lot of whom are below poverty level, have to continue to support duplicate administrative costs for a little over 6,000 students combined? Continue reading “Guest Post: Bay-Waveland School Board Budget Hearing – A New Ballgame”

Other Voices | Lana Noonan: Its a new game in town for Bay-Waveland School District

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? Continue reading “Other Voices | Lana Noonan: Its a new game in town for Bay-Waveland School District”