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”

BREAKING: Mississippi Ethics Commission finds that Bay-Waveland School Board violated open meeting law

On July 10, 2015 the Mississippi Ethics Commission cited the Bay-Waveland School Board for improperly entering executive session to discuss the award of a professional service contract for architectural services on February 19, 2015. At that February meeting the School Board was advised it OK to discuss the contract award by Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues, who recently completed his 20th year providing legal services to the School District. The Ethics Commission found the discussion of a RFPs for a professional services contract did not meet any of the clear-cut criteria set forth in authority section 25-41-7(4) of the Mississippi Code.

Worth noting is the school district, in response to the ethics compliant filed by Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, did not actually claim to meet any of the exceptions set forth in the Mississippi Code, the compliance requirements of which Mississippi School Board members receive extensive training. Unfortunately the conduct of the public’s business in secret by the School Board also fits a troubling pattern of secrecy involving conduct of the taxpayer’s business with politically connected citizens dating back to the purchase of the Bay Tech Building by the school district for use as the Central Office.

One of the School Board members that voted to enter the improper executive session, Board President Sherry Ponder, is a long time member of the school board that also holds an education doctorate. She faces at least two declared opponents this fall in the upcoming school board election in the City of Waveland including former Waveland City Councilman Mark Kidd. Another school board member, Maurice Singleton, is running for County Supervisor in District Four. Both have employment connections to the local newspaper of record, the Seacoast Echo.

More recently, the School Board has voted to explore giving the cash strapped City of Bay St Louis fifty thousand dollars for use on a municipal sidewalk project off school property. According to Hancock County Alliance for Good Government President Lana Noonan, the request for the Attorney General’s opinion submitted by Board Attorney Artigues neglected to mention the district’s funding of the project would involve municipal rights of way that did not belong to the School District, an area of the law that is well settled based upon previous Attorney General opinions finding that Mississippi school districts have no statutory authority to fund a municipal capital project.

Those wishing to see the four page preliminary report and recommendations on the matter by the Mississippi Ethics Commission, including the school district’s response, can click below to obtain the four page pdf which was released to the public earlier today Continue reading “BREAKING: Mississippi Ethics Commission finds that Bay-Waveland School Board violated open meeting law”

Guest Editorial: City of Bay St Louis Infrastructure Improvements Must be Legally Funded

At the May 11, meeting of the Bay St. Louis – Waveland School Board, Jason Chinche, the City Engineer for Bay St. Louis representing the Mayor made a funding request of the School Board of $50,000 in “start-up” money for an infrastructure project on the extension of Carroll Ave. north of Highway 90 for approximately 900 ft. of sidewalk for a total cost of some $200,000.

Before the conversation started between the Engineer and the Board, Superintendent Rebecca Ladner, spoke up and said that she could not be on record endorsing school district funds for this project because it is on city property, not school district property. Her statement apparently fell on deaf ears because the Board and their attorney agreed to investigate how the funding could be arranged. Mind you, this item was on the Action Agenda of the School Board meeting. Had the Superintendent not spoken up, the Board may have issued the funds right there.

In a conversation with the State Department of Education on May 12, the Finance Office told me that Superintendent Ladner was correct, and that school districts cannot donate money, only services and facilities. Both city governing bodies have been advised by the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government of this with Miss. Code and Attorney General’s Opinions provided by the State Department of Education. Unfortunately the Bay St. Louis Mayor and School Board Attorney are currently attempting an interlocal agreement between the two entities, the School Board and the City of Bay St. Louis, for this $50,000 in school district funds to be transferred to Bay St. Louis city accounts.

Since the Bay St. Louis Mayor and School Board attorney ( and some School Board members) decided to pay no attention to the Superintendent and the State Department of Education, the Alliance for Good Government approached the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the State Auditor for opinions.

Their opinions, based on what they referred to as a similar case in New Albany, Miss. where the city requested funding from the local school board for an infrastructure project, is as follows: Continue reading “Guest Editorial: City of Bay St Louis Infrastructure Improvements Must be Legally Funded”

Sid meet local noisemakers Rebecca and Les

I’ve been kicking this whole Bay-Waveland School District becoming the City of Bay St Louis’ capital projects fund around for a few days and I’m coming to a few inescapable conclusions that include the term malfeasance. Since Slabbed began covering local Hancock County government the only constant is the rate at which schemes are hatched by Bay St Louis Mayor Les Fillingame, all of which costs money, a commodity everyone agrees is in short supply at the City of Bay St Louis. This does not stop the City Council from regularly being derelict in its statutorily charged duty to oversee the municipal purse, which in turn lends an Alice in Wonderland type quality to the entire sad affair.

I say this because we are now finding out the Bay-Waveland School District is so flush with money that it has extra to give the City for sidewalks, and not the ones promised to Councilman Reed and Compretta’s Districts along Old Spanish Trail earlier this year. Earlier this year though, Bay-Waveland Schools Superintendent Rebecca Ladner was sho’ nuff’ poor mouthin’ levels of education funding here in Mississippi and that is where I begin:

Being as how we are equal opportunity here at Slabbed we gotta give good ol’ Sid Salter the credit for inspiring this post:

Democrat’s rewrite of MAEP history short on fact ~ Sid Salter

I thought Sid’s column was superficial as there is plenty of blame to be spread around to both political parties for Mississippi’s well documented deficiencies in public education and that is where I think of history and not the partisan political variety. Once upon a time in Mississippi, 16th section tracts were routinely used as a source of political patronage at the expense of the school age kids and local levels of funding were at the whim of the Board of Supervisors or City Council, not the school board. These abuses were cured in the 1980’s under Governor William Winter and the Education Reform Act. But here in the Bay we’ve now come full circle. Continue reading “Sid meet local noisemakers Rebecca and Les”

City of Bay St Louis asks Bay Waveland School Board for Municipal capital projects funding

By Lana Noonan, Special to Slabbed New Media

What looked like a rather boring agenda for the May 11, 2015 Bay-Waveland School Board meeting turned out to be rather interesting. First up was Superintendent Ladner presenting awards to School District retirees and students who had excelled in academics and arts.

In the Superintendent’s report Ms. Ladner covered the Third Grade Reading Gate Test Scores that were just released on Friday, May 8. Out of some 160 3rd graders, 91% passed with an average score of 998. The lowest score that could be made to pass was 926, and the highest score that could have been achieved was 1200.

When the Business Manager took the podium to give the first update on the upcoming budget, he was interrupted early on by Trustee Benvenutti who asked, “Do you have any copies for the Board of the information you are reading from. I am not a CPA and certainly won’t remember all of this.”

Superintendent Ladner spoke up and said that they didn’t really want people having this information on the budget at this time as it is a work in progress. Benvenutti shot back, “who do you mean by “people?’ We are the Board who will have to approve this budget, and I want this information. Can you arrange for it to be emailed to us no later than tomorrow?” Ladner agreed.

There was a pretty lengthy discussion on what to do to remedy the ongoing situation at the football field concerning the drainage problem under the bleachers. Bill Carrigee, the new project manager, advised the Board that in order to do the job right and finish it, he would recommend breaking up the concrete under the section of bleachers that are affected, dismantling the bleachers and then reassembling them once the drainage is in place. This will be an additional $170,000 on an already multi-million dollar project. Continue reading “City of Bay St Louis asks Bay Waveland School Board for Municipal capital projects funding”

Bay Waveland School Superintendent Rebecca Ladner gets continued criticism for poor results and politicizing the local schools

LANA NOONAN and AMES KERGOSIEN: Don’t politicize Mississippi’s education funding ~ Sun Herald Letters to the Editor

What are we getting for the money we’re already giving the local school district?

In 2012-13, 37 percent of third-graders in the Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District could not read at grade level. That number grew to 42 percent in 2013-14. Knowing these dismal numbers, what did our superintendent and school board do with our local tax dollars? Did they hire a reading coach to help these at-risk students?

No.

For the past 18 months, $481,336.57 of our local taxes were used for classroom supplies, as compared with $1.5 million (and counting) for a football field and $2.26 million for a parking lot.

Its a simple question of priorities folks.

Mississippi Miscellany: Singing River Health System desperate to get Chancellor Harris off the case plus all hell is breaking loose

Before I get started with some links how about a nice picture from yesterday’s retiree protest at Ocean Springs Hospital:

Image courtesy of a reader | 2-26-15 SRHS Retiree Ocean Springs Hospital Protest
Image courtesy of a reader | 2-26-15 SRHS Retiree Ocean Springs Hospital Protest

It appears the lawyers representing the pension plan, finding no joy on their manufactured recusal motion here on the coast expects the State Supreme Court to stop next weeks hearings on the retiree suits:

SRHS wants hearings stopped in pension cases ~ Anita Lee

They are doing this to avoid having to produce documents that would help everyone get to the bottom of things. You wonder what kind of skeletons are buried in those docs as I am reminded of something I wrote last month:

By their actions SRHS has demonstrated a preference for keeping a law firm with major conflict questions involved in the pension litigation and using that firm’s support of Judge Harris’ opponent in last year’s election as a lever to force Harris off the case. The heart of the Harris recusal motion is predicated on that fact. Remove Dogan & Wilkerson from the equation and the Harris recusal motion they filed goes up in smoke. Simply put, the powers running SRHS must fear Judge Neil Harris more than they do their own legal conflicts. The implications of that fact are stunning and foretell a tale of major muck still being hidden.

Once those documents are produced, my prediction is the SRHS pension plan’s law firm, Dogan and Wilkinson will not be long remaining on the case.

Next up:

Jackson County, SRHS leaders to get together over finances, pension

So now we have Jackson County spending big money on the Laporte CPA firm while SRHS spends big money on their own actuary.  The price of getting religion at SRHS sure is steep folks.

In other news the fallout from Supervisor William Martin’s indictment and suicide continues.  I have been told by sources in Jackson that the Martin indictment is related to the MDOC corruption probe.  The timing of former MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps guilty plea and the Martin indictment are not coincidental in my opinion.

And this brings me to the continuing HCUA/Sean Anthony corruption investigation Continue reading “Mississippi Miscellany: Singing River Health System desperate to get Chancellor Harris off the case plus all hell is breaking loose”

Public Education: Why Johnny can’t read and a severe lack of transparency at BWSD dominates the local grapevine

The Clarion Ledger was on a tear over the weekend:

Education politics grow more absurd ~ Geoff Pender

Geoff, thanks for this article. What we are dealing with is an ELECTION YEAR. That is when any and everybody can get thrown under the bus, even the kids.

Educators sound off on Common Core, MAEP ~ Emily Le Coz

Loophole lets pedophiles get educator licenses ~ Emily Le Coz

Meantime for those that missed it a comment bump from Lana Noonan regarding a special meeting of the Bay Waveland School District’s Board of Trustees:

The Bay-Waveland School Board hit a home run again today in their efforts to operate under the same clandestine scenario that has become business as usual for them. At a special called meeting to interview potential architects for future projects, they chose to do so in Executive Session.

Now, currently, there is no provision in the Open Meetings Law in Miss. for discussing in Executive Session those professionals who will do contract work for a public entity, only the entity’s own personnel. In a effort to keep things clean, I reminded them of this, but Board Attorney Artigues, stated that this was a” special situation.” Really, after reading the Open Meetings Law, I could find no “special situations” that could be subjectively declared by a public Board or their attorney that would give permission to conduct the kind of business they did today. Continue reading “Public Education: Why Johnny can’t read and a severe lack of transparency at BWSD dominates the local grapevine”

Slabbed exclusive: Bay Tech Civil Suit Settles

A few weeks ago the parties to the Bay Tech civil suit settled their differences and the case was dismissed. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Those wondering exactly what I am talking about should click here generally and here for specifics on the use of the Bay-Waveland School District to facilitate a real estate transactions that benefited private individuals.

There is one last document in this case that I have known about for over two years that I hope to present to Slabbed’s readers so we can complete the timeline of this specious transaction, which included the Bay-Waveland School District spending almost $100,000 on architectural fees designing a building the Superintendent and School Board knew they would never build. This whole deal completely reeks on several levels folks.

Next Tuesday, the voters in Waveland will be able weigh in with their thoughts on this matter.