The Benton County Board of Education meet April 12, 2021 at the Office of the Superintendent with the following members confirmed present: Katrina McGregor, President; Pete Howell, Superintendent; Erma Poplar, Vice-President; Pamela Gray, Assistant Superintendent; Brian Gresham, Secretary; Tracy Clayton, Candace Sanders, Board Clerk; Tom Stewart, Technology Dir.; Tonya Kuhl, Finance Director; Lori Whaley Shaw, Attorney; Missy Biggs, MDE (via Zoom); Mildred Daugherty, Stephanie Moffitt, Jennifer Parks, Betty Page, Christopher Suggs, James Griffin, Patti Blanchard, Sarita Thompson, Frank Thompson, BCSD Faculty & Staff via Zoom, Community Members via Zoom.

The regular Board Meeting of the Benton County School District convened on April 12, 2021, at 5:33 p.m. in the Central Office Board Room at 231 Court Street, Ashland, MS. The meeting was called to order by President Katrina McGregor and commenced as an open meeting. Prayer was lead by Secretary Brian Gresham.

Mrs. Erma Poplar requested the addition of Item 7.1.A – Discussion of an Appointed Board Member. There being no further additions or adjustments, the Board voted to approve the amended agenda. Member Poplar made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Gresham seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

The Board voted to approve the Minutes of the March 15, 2021 Meeting. Member Gresham made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Clayton seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Superintendent Howell congratulated Coach Suggs and the Ashland High School track team for winning the division championship. Coach Suggs was present and displayed the championship trophy.

Superintendent Howell recognized Ashland Elementary School Gifted Education teacher Jennifer Parks for becoming a National Board certified educator.

Superintendent Howell recognized Hickory Flat Attendance Center teacher Stephanie Moffitt for her achievement in obtaining her Masters Degree in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment from Walden University.

Superintendent Howell recognized Laketia Petty for her upcoming graduation from Liberty University. Ms. Petty will obtain a Specialist Degree in Education Leadership.

The Board heard from Sarita Thompson and Frank Thompson regarding concerns that the district may be planning to close a school. Board President Katrina McGregor advised both parties that no decisions have been made, and there will be further discussion and information provided later in the meeting concerning this matter.

Board Member Erma Poplar made a motion to appoint Betty Page as interim District 2 Board Member. Board Member Tracy Clayton seconded the motion. At this time, a great deal of discussion was exchanged among the Board Members. Board Member Brian Gresham expressed his desire for the Board to not appoint an interim board member, as such choice/selection should be made by the public via a special election. Following the extensive discussion, a vote was called for and cast as follows: Votes cast for the motion: Member Poplar, Member Clayton. Votes cast against the motion: Member McGregor; Member Gresham abstained. The motion passed.

The Board voted to accept letters of resignation from Atoyia Jackson (Ashland High School), Renee Fortner Hickory Flat Attendance Center), Tonya Gray (Ashland High School) and Heath Robbins (District Office.) Member Poplar made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Gresham seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

The Board voted to approve the hiring of Tracy Hampton as night time janitor at Ashland High School. Member Poplar made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Gresham seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

The Board voted to approve a Use of Facilities application submitted by the Potts Camp Sports Association/Marshall County Sports Association to utilize the Hickory Flat baseball and softball fields for summer leagues. Member Gresham made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Clayton seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

The Board voted to table the matter of student releases until Superintendent Howell can research policies from surrounding districts and present information at the May meeting. Member Gresham made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Poplar seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

The Board voted to approve the request for a school bus turn around. Member Gresham made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Poplar seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Mrs. Tonya Kuhl presented the monthly reconciled bank balances, cash flow report, Statement of Revenues and Expenditures, Budget Status Statement, Statement of Fund Balances, and Balance Sheet.

The Board voted to approve Claims Docket #064477-064567. Member Poplar made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Gresham seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

The Board voted to approve the 2021-2022 Extracurricular Supplement Schedule. Member Gresahm made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Poplar seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

The Board voted to approve the job description for the position of ESSER Coordinator. Member Poplar made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Gresham seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Superintendent Howell provided a summary of the strategic planning meeting that took place on April 8, 2021, in Oxford, MS. The permissible uses of ESSER funding were discussed (ex: addressing learning loss, PPE, improving air quality [replacing and/or upgrading HVAC systems, replacing windows, etc.] or construction and/or renovations.) Superintendent Howell and key district staff members also met with Tim Pruitt and Heath Perry of Eley Guild Hardy Architects and obtained estimated costs for repairs/renovations to the existing structures on each campus. It was suggested that there should be an opportunity for community input on the options presented, and that the board would want to convene a special called meeting for further discussion prior to taking final action.

*The Board voted to recess the meeting. Member Poplar made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Gresham seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

The meeting was in recess from 7:13 p.m. until 7:35 p.m. While in recess, Attorney Shaw consulted by phone with Attorney Jim Keith and Mrs. McGregor consulted by phone with Denotris Jackson, Executive Director of Mississippi School Boards Association. Due to some confusion and lack of clarity pertaining to the vote on “Discussion of an Appointed Board Member” the Board may choose to rescind the action and revote. However, Attorney Keith said that Mr. Gresham’s intention was clearly expressed therefore the record may reflect that he opposed.

The Board voted to revise the Curriculum Director’s salary to $70,000.00. Member Gresham made a motion to approve. Member McGregor seconded the motion. Votes cast against were Member Poplar and Member Clayton. The motion failed.

A copy of the current policy was not available for inspection. This item will be revisited at the May meeting.

The Board voted to approve the District Vehicle Assignment Policy with the provision that there must be an addendum to clarify when district vehicles may not be used. Member Poplar made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Gresham seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Superintendent Howell presented data from a recently conducted survey regarding professional development; safety concerns; relations between the board, superintendent and district office staff, and the faculty/staff and community; fiscal management; and teacher recognition.

Superintendent Howell presented data pertaining to teacher attendance at each school for the month of March.

Superintendent Howell presented data pertaining to student attendance at each school for the month of March.

This information was presented during the ESSER discussion.

The Board voted to approve the fixed asset disposal. Member Poplar made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Gresham seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Mrs. Tracy Clayton requested an update regarding the library at Hickory Flat Attendance Center. Attorney Shaw is communicating with the county’s attorney regarding the joint use agreement and working for resolution by the end of the school year.

The Board discussed a Special Called Meeting and scheduled such for April 19, 2021 at 6 p.m. The meeting will include a thirty minute public forum to hear concerns and/or questions regarding the options for use of ESSER II funding.

There being no further business, the Board voted to adjourn. Member Poplar made a motion to approve the minutes. Member Gresham seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

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