“Board meetings are business meetings and the board room is much more conducive for a business meeting,” said Luther Superintendent Sheldon Buxton.
He was asked why May’s school board meeting was held in the boardroom, when for the last several months, the meetings have been held in the spacious auditorium in the same building.
The nearly three-hour meeting Monday night was delayed a couple of minutes while Board Member Steve Broudy stalled taking his place in the leather business chair to help pull more folding chairs into the tight room to accommodate the estimated 100 patrons there to witness the business being conducted. Still, some people were relegated to the lobby.
As an editorial sidenote, The Luther Register successfully (surprisingly) broadcast live the proceeding on Periscope, a phone app also viewable through Twitter (find me @berryholler). The videos are also saved for anyone to view. We’ll keep that going for important community meetings and events, and maybe even find a sponsor for it.
The School Board business meeting tackled a 28-item agenda that at times had the board members holding their noses, figuratively, as they approved firings, resignations and retirements that Board President Matt Mohr admitted were likely more from the climate of the school district and financial stress rather than the individual’s performances. “We let you down,” he said.
Matt Mohr and Steve Broudy
At times, some board members were contentious. No doubt all of it is an unpleasant business these days as the board, teachers, staff, parents and students grapple with historic budget shortfalls and revenue shortages.
The tension was palpable toward the end of the meeting when President Mohr accused Charles DeFuria of bringing “frivolous” items before the board instead of first contacting the administration for information or explanations. DeFuria retorted, “I’ve tried to work with him; I’ve tried,” referring to Dr. Buxton.
Indeed, three agenda items: moving the superintendent’s office, paying unused sick leave to retirees and reviewing the policy for purchase orders (or simply being familiar with Oklahoma school law) all might have been dealt with “off agenda” with some communication and training – whether by the board members to the administration or vice versa. Communication is key.
Here is a clip an an example.
Still, Broudy emphasized his intent to be a champion for protecting money spent on students above all else. He also questioned the unapproved-by-the-board hiring of administration consultant Tim Green who has amassed an $8,000 unpaid bill for his advice about school finance and running the accounting software.
In other action, the board approved a supplemental appropriation in the amount of nearly $240,000 to pay bills, including several outstanding balances (some of which date back to last July), and have some working cash to begin the next school year. Dr. Buxton said the money came from an infusion of new property taxes to the district, and also allows for the payment of unused sick leave to retiring employees which DeFuria was concerned about.
When the board approved the list of teachers who will be cut next year, it was noted that the District Teacher of the Year named earlier in the meeting was on the list. Dana Broyles was named High School Teacher of the Year and District Teacher of the Year. She teaches math and alternative education until the end of this school year.
The Middle School Teacher of the Year, Joel Norman, is retiring. He taught science.
Elementary School Teacher of the Year Melody Seather will return next year.
Middle School Principal Barry Gunn addresses the board
Each school principal gave a building report, the first in several months. Each highlighted many year-end activities, such as limousine rides for the elementary students with perfect attendance, awards banquets and talent shows. Each principal said they were hopeful that year-end testing would show positive results.
The board also approved the calendar for the 2016-2017 untried shortened school year. Broudy questioned the long summer break and retention loss since school will not begin until Sept. 6, 2016 and will end May 9, 2017. A parent petition with 200 signatures requesting another consideration of a four-day school week instead of the shortened school-year was not honored.
The school day will run from 8:00 am – 3:40 pm. The shortened school year is a cost-saving attempt with an anticipated savings of $150,000, to add to the nearly $800,000 in cuts to faculty, staff and programs approved last month. Some staff have openly worried how the longer school days with no ability to pay overtime will affect bus routes, maintenance and cleaning.