AMORY – Monroe County Superintendent of Education Brian Jernigan brief Monroe County School Board members Nov. 10 on developments with the state’s broadband grant through the Mississippi Pandemic Response Broadband Availability Act and Equity in Distance Learning Act.
“We are looking at utilizing $466,000 that we’ve got to pay up front and then get reimbursed,” he said. “When we started, we were told that we had to have all invoices paid by Dec. 15.”
Jernigan said district assistant superintendent Kevin Threadgill was notified the amount of the expenditure needed to be increased to match the district’s allocation. The paperwork for that adjustment was submitted and approved the day of the board meeting.
Jernigan said the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) moved the deadline for invoices to be submitted to Dec. 1 when work items have to be invoiced and submitted for reimbursement.
“We were recently informed that it had to be installed as well,” he said. “The agreement with MDE does mention a date of Dec 15 if orders are behind. We cannot ensure that labor to be completed by Dec. 1.”
According to the state auditor’s office, no communication was made to MDE about changing the date to Dec. 1, and officials there are sticking with the applicable federal deadline of Dec. 30 to have the new equipment installed and in use.
“We’re in the middle of this,” Jernigan said. “The worst case scenario for us is that we have to fund the $466,000 ourselves. We’re trying to get clarification on the deadlines.”
Jernigan quoted a conversation with the vendor, who is one of four installers across the state and is working 14-hour days, six days a week to provide broadband installation for 20 school districts.
“We can absorb the cost using part of our three-mill funds or pull from our fund balance, but I don’t want to do that,” Jernigan said. “We can’t send all this stuff back that we’ve ordered. We will keep working with the agencies to get the best we can for our district. It’s hard to keep playing the game when they keep changing the rules.”
The school board approved Jernigan’s request to expedite processing of invoices without separate board approval in order to meet the changing deadlines from MDE to qualify for reimbursement.
In other business, the school board approved a $39,690 grant from the Gilmore Foundation for facilities improvements, specifically upgrades to water fountains at all the district’s schools.
“They want to be involved in helping with facilities improvements,” Jernigan said.
He also expressed appreciation to school board member Chris Markham for his donated labor in leveling the practice football field at Hamilton Attendance Center.
Bickerstaff adjourned the meeting in memory of long-time district employee Ellis Tubb, who recently passed away.