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Lincoln County School Board weighs in on state agenda

The Lincoln County School Board gave its input on legislative priorities Monday in a survey by the Mississippi School Board Association, a non-profit professional organization that lobbies for legislation on behalf of the state’s school boards.

The survey contained a series of legislative priorities, with the option to support, oppose or give no opinion. The MSBA takes one survey per board, so the board first needed to reach an agreement on which measures to support.

According to the MSBA, the results of the survey will establish their agenda for the 2020 legislative session.

Lending support

The board decided to support the following legislative measures:

• Increasing teacher pay

• Incentives for teachers to stay in education

• Incentives for people majoring in education and/or people seeking an alternate route license.

• Eliminating the requirement of passing an end-of-course test to graduate.

• Allowing a school board member to be removed from office for violating accreditation and/or ethics standards.

• Requiring all school board members to be elected.

• Increasing qualifications for individuals running for local school board.

• Fully funding the public education funding formula.

• Creating a structured, statewide approach to quality early childhood education.

• Changing the public education funding formula from average daily attendance to total enrollment.

Opposition

The board decided to oppose the following legislative measures:

• Allowing school employees with proper training to carry guns on school campus.

• Reducing the number of family members of the superintendent who can be recommended for employment.

• Changing the school board election laws so that all school board members will stand for election/reelection, appointment/reappointment in the same election.

• Restricting local control of school boards.

• Providing an income tax deduction for parents who home school or send their children to private school.

• Creating a Tax Credit Scholarship Act allowing individuals to make tax deductible donations to a qualifying scholarship organization that provides scholarships to students who attend K-12 nonpublic schools.

• Allowing students who are attending C, D or F schools to transfer to an A or B school.

• Allowing public funds to be diverted from public schools to nonpublic schools, home schools or virtual schools by means of vouchers, tuition tax credits, or scholarships.

• Allowing public charter schools in districts with successful accountability ratings of A, B or C.

• Changing the way the public education funding formula is determined.

No opinion

The board had no opinion on the following legislative measures:

• Increasing school board member compensation.

Educational District 1 Trustee Justin Laird initially supported the measure to allow teachers with training to carry guns in school, but District 4 Trustee Diane Gill disagreed.

“Those teachers have enough,” Gill said. “If you’ve been in the classroom with those precious children, they’re not just ours. They have mawmaws, pawpaws, mommas and daddies to get back home to.”

Board President Billy Vaughn echoed Gill’s sentiment, saying he would not have wanted a gun at his side when he was a teacher, and he didn’t like the idea of placing the burden of pursuing an active shooter on teachers.

The board decided to support legislation eliminating subject area testing from graduation requirements after Letha Presley spoke about accessibility issues with the assessment. Many special education students who would otherwise pass their courses will not be able to graduate because of the requirement.

“They can get through the class with the SPED teacher helping them and the regular teachers accommodating them, but when it gets to that test, there’s not very many accommodations,” she said.

The board opposed limiting the number of the superintendent’s family that can be employed by the district. Laird noted in the meeting that it wasn’t clear what the appropriate cutoff would be.

“There is nepotism in all facets of life, I think,” Superintendent Mickey Myers said. “I have a lot of family members in this district. Ask the principals if they get their money’s worth. I think they are.”

The board was opposed to all measures directing funds away from public schools onto private schools, and also allowing transfers based on the grading of schools. Vaughn said it would be too difficult for schools to take on the influx of students.

The board declined to express an opinion on supporting legislation increasing their own pay.

“I don’t think that’s for me to decide,” Laird said. “I think that’s for the people of Lincoln County To decide.”

The board also went into executive session to consider five student matters.

The board will meet for a meeting and work-session Friday at 9 a.m. in the district office at 233 East Monticello Street to discuss and possibly approve criteria for an appointed superintendent based on stakeholder reports, future construction projects, budget and the possible need for another work session.

In other business

The LCSB also approved the following items Monday:

• Kaylie Boyd was approved as an assistant dance coach.

• Mandy Thompson was approved as a full-time kindergarten teacher assistant.

• Vicki Winborne and Jade Lambert were added to Bogue Chitto School’s substitute list for the 2019-2020 school year.

• Permission to accept a $500 donation from First Bank to assist with supplies for the new art program.

• Bonnie Thompson, Cynthia Carithers and Christie Cox were added to the Enterprise substitute teacher list.

• Matthew Cain was added as a substitute janitor.

• Suzanne James, Jennifer Netterville and Peter Griffin were added to the substitute list at Loyd Star.

• The contract for Loyd Star teachers Jeb McBeth and Jordan Lea were approved.

• Karen Mowdy and Ashtin Prather were added to the West Lincoln substitute list.

• Tambria Brothern was added as a janitorial substitute.

• One year contracts for teachers Jessica Prather, Lindsey Gennaro and Jeremy Johnson were approved.

• The engagement letter with Payne and Leggett for the audit of the LCSD’s financial statements for the 2018-2019 fiscal year at a cost of $17,000 was approved.

• Permission was granted to accept the quote for Worker’s Compensation Insurance from the accident fund for $87,865.

• Permission was granted to process an additional payroll on Nov. 15, 2019 for the school recognition funds awarded to West Lincoln for their performance during the 2018 school year.

• Cheryl Galloway’s resignation from the Loyd Star cafeteria was approved.

• The hiring of Kimberly Ann Barlow, for the Loyd Star cafeteria, was approved.

• Several revisions to bring district policy in line with state law were approved.