Nine Proposals Submitted for Vocational School, None Named Yet
BY BRIAN JONES
At their June 14 meeting, the Lowndes County School Board heard a brief budget update, discussed construction projects and listened to a concerned parent from West Lowndes.
Business Manager Lotis Johnson gave a brief budget update.
“Up to today we are up to about 99.8 percent of our (FY13) revenues,” she said. “We are still projecting some revenues, because I haven’t been able to get in touch with (Tax Assessor) Greg Andrews, I think he’s been on vacation. As far as ad valorem and in lieu we don’t have those numbers, but will update them my next week. On the expenditure side, we have 32 teacher vacancies that are not filled, but they are in the budget. For FY13 we are projecting that we will be expenditures over revenues by about $249,000. When we end the year, our projected fund balance will be about $12.2 million, which is a reserve of about 30 percent. Our target is 15 percent.”
More details on the budget will be presented next week at the budget hearing, scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m.
Joey Henderson of JBHM reported that the district received nine proposals for potential sites for a vocational center.
The district advertised for proposals, asking landowners with more than 10 acres available within a certain radius of Highway 82 and Military or Highway 82 and Lehmberg to contact them.
“These nine proposals are good for at least 45 days,” Henderson said. “They vary a lot. There are different advantages and disadvantages – some of them are in the flood plain, some are not, some have better access. You just need to start looking through these and doing due diligence.”
Jane Kilgore asked that no action be taken.
“I think we need to prioritize what we’re going to build first, second and third,” Kilgore said. “We need classrooms for our students, and we need to meet and talk about this very soon.”
“I think this is a definite need,” said Jacqueline Gray. “We have a lot of industries coming in close to us, right here in our backyard, and our kids need to be ready for these jobs. We are not covering all these fields right now.”
“I think vo-tech is good, I’m not against it, I just think we need to prioritize,” Kilgore said.
“Are there any properties that you prefer?” Gray asked Henderson.
“We just got the proposals, we have not gone back through them yet,” Henderson said. “We have no recommendation as of today.”
The board took no action.
Dwayne Brown spoke on behalf of about 30 parents and citizens from the West Lowndes area. Brown asked the board not to put the alternative school at West Lowndes, and also asked them to move forward on finding a permanent principal at West Lowndes High School.
[At one point Superintendent Lynn Wright proposed the LCSD’s alternative school be moved to West Lowndes Middle School, which has a very low enrollment. That measure was voted down last month, and the alternative services remained with the Columbus Municipal School District. Charles Jackson, currently interim principal at West Lowndes High School, was renewed earlier this year as an “administrator” but not assigned a school. Mr. Wright had recommended that he be named principal, but he was not after protests by Ms. Gray. As of now there is still no full-time principal in place at WLHS. – Brian Jones] “We are concerned about putting the alternative school out there,” he said. “I just want to reiterate that we do not want the alternative school at West Lowndes. We feel it would put a stigma on WLMS, and we don’t want our kids to be subject to that kind of environment. We don’t want the negativity. The school should be for the success of our kids. The middle school has a D rating, and we don’t want to displace any teachers out there.
“The second thing we want to talk about is the hiring process at the high school,” he said. “Our kids deserve the best opportunities, and we want the process to get started with a committee and interviews to find the best possible principal to move our school forward. We want the best for our children. You’ve got to have the right people in place to move the school forward.”
“Did we not go ahead and vote about the alternative school being at West Lowndes?” Kilgore asked.
“Yes,” said President Bobby Barksdale. “I already told Mr. Brown that.”
Gray asked that the hiring process move forward at West Lowndes, and made a motion to advertise for the position. Her motion died for lack of a second, to the obvious displeasure of the parents.
[I’m unsure what the district thinks it’s doing here. It seems like they’re hoping if they just take no action long enough, Mr. Jackson will somehow magically become the principal. I don’t think it’s fair to the either Mr. Jackson or to the West Lowndes community. This should have been handled months ago, and it is ridiculous that the board is still dragging its feet. – Brian Jones] 0