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”

Hancock Schools District Consolidation Study Committee Meets

By Lana Noonan – Special to Slabbed

The first meeting of the Committee to Study the Consolidation of the Two School Districts in Hancock County was held Tuesday in the Bay St. Louis City Council Chambers.

Ron Thorp, Co-Chairman of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government put together a very well thought out and structured cost study program to provide information for the public with regard to what the taxpayers in Hancock County are spending to have two School Districts.

Each member received a packet of the subject areas to be investigated and their particular topic to gather facts on and report back next month. The subject areas to be studied are: Legal expenses, Transportation, Alternative School, Travel/Special Student Expense, Purchasing, Consultants, Administration/ Debt Consolidation, School Board Consolidation, Insurance, Maintenance, State Fees, Dues and Organizations.

Some early figures were obtained by the committee members. For instance the current Maintenance Budgets for the two Districts are:

Hancock School District Current Maintenance Budget–$3,969,883.20, which includes $820,000 insurance, with custodial services, grass cutting and lawn services out sourced to private contractors. These expenses are being incurred for a student body of 4,552 students and 7 campuses.

Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District Maintenance Budget— $2,766,136.83, which includes facility employees ( no number given), janitorial employees (no number given), supplies, equipment, and repairs for 1,865 students and 4 campuses. Bay-Waveland’s insurance cost approximately $800,000 two years ago, and was not included as part of the Maintenance Budget. Continue reading “Hancock Schools District Consolidation Study Committee Meets”