After a vigorous discussion, the board approved hiring a PE instructor at Columbus Middle School. The personnel issues, which normally are handled with one quick motion, were moved into executive session. After the closed session, Trustee Jason Spears questioned the necessity of the hire.
“It has continued to grow as a concern of mine that we’re getting recommendations [to hire] that have added up to quite a substantial sum,” he said. “We’re continuing to add $12,500 positions to the payroll, and since June we’ve added six of these positions. That’s over $75,000. We need more information as to why we continue to add these positions to the payroll.”
Superintendent Martha Liddell explained that all but one of the positions were replacements, and therefore already in the budget. The PE instructor was the only newly created position, she said.
“We cut so substantially at the middle school,” she said. [During the budget process the district cut 69 positions. All of those who were let go had less than one year of service in the district. Over 40 of the affected teachers were later hired back. – Brian Jones] “There enrollment has increased to a thousand students, and the school is bursting at the seams. We have about 75 students at a time in the gym now. We cannot have 75 kids in the gym with just one person. It’s a safety issue.”
“We have no one else that’s there already that can help?” Spears asked.
“We do not,” Liddell said. “We have our state enrollment maxed out at all of our schools. We are at 27:1 in the elementary, and we can go as high as 30 at the middle school. We have saved the district a tremendous amount of money, but this is a safety issue. An assistant can help with the situation.”
“The additional people being replaced are one-to-one changes?” Spears asked. “There is no difference in benefits.”
“No,” Liddell said. “They all have zero years [of experience] and they are all fitting into open positions. They will work at this [pay level] until they get a year’s experience, then they will bump up.”
The personnel recommendations were approved 3-0. [Currie Fisher, Spears and Aubra Turner were present to vote. Glenn Lautzenhiser was at the meeting before the executive session, but left early to accept an award from the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival. Tommy Prude was not present Thursday night at all. – Brian Jones]
In Other Business, the Board:
Approved a $5,000 grant from Omnova Foundation for dropout prevention.
Approved an application for $50,000 in dropout prevention money from the Mississippi Department of Education.
Approved a facilities rental request from a ministry who wants to hold a domestic violence and child abuse awareness event at the Columbus High Football field.0