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Ruston, Louisiana
The Lincoln Parish School Board met in Regular Session on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, at 6:00 p.m. at the Lincoln Parish School Board, 410 South Farmerville Street, Ruston, Louisiana. Members present were Ms. Debbie Abrahm, Mr. Otha Anders, Mr. Michael Barmore, Ms. Lisa Best, Mr. David Ferguson, Mr. Danny Hancock, Ms. Lynda Henderson, Mr. Trott Hunt, Mr. George Mack, Jr., Mr. Joe Mitcham, and Ms. Susan Wiley.
Mr. Curtis Dowling was absent.
President Anders called the meeting to order and gave the invocation. Ms. Henderson led in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag.
Mr. Anders welcomed board members, staff, members of the media, and special guests. Upon a motion by Mr. Barmore, seconded by Ms. Wiley, the Board unanimously voted to adopt the agenda as printed. Upon a motion by Ms. Abrahm, seconded by Mr. Hancock, the Board unanimously voted to approve the minutes of the Regular Sessions held on October 6 and October 21, 2015. Last week the Louisiana Department of Education released School Performance Scores (SPS) for schools having 9th - 12th grades only; therefore, only one school in Lincoln Parish received a score - Ruston High School (RHS). Lisa Bastion, Chief Academic Officer, was elated to recognize a dynamic leader whose school scored well and made him eligible to receive a monetary performance award. She presented a check to Ricky Durrett, principal of Ruston High School, because the school grew 8.2 points (from 92.1 to 100.3) and earned an “A” letter grade. Ms. Bastion explained how the scores were calculated with four components: End-of-Course exams, ACT, graduation rate, and the strength of the diplomas. She read quotes from four faculty members and one Central Office supervisor for the former RHS teacher who had been back at the school for one year as principal. Without fail, they described him as truly caring about each student and his/her success while engaging and inspiring his teachers. Because of the school leader, the students were learning and achieving at higher levels. Mr. Durrett thanked the Board for the opportunity to serve at RHS, Mr. Milstead for the part he played as the former principal and the current superintendent, the supportive parents, the hardworking students, and especially the teachers who have gone the extra mile for the students. He pledged to continue to look for ways to grow and improve the school and the students' education. Superintendent Mike Milstead expressed his pride in the five-year administrative veteran, his staff's extra-ordinary efforts, and the incredible job they are doing. He noted that Ruston High School was 1 of only 4 non-magnet schools out of 48 9-12 grade high schools north of Alexandria to earn an “A” letter grade. The result of the fine staff's and leadership's very hard work was impressive. Mr. Anders was also delighted to commend Mr. Durrett and his faculty and staff. He challenged the principal to continue to do the great things he's doing for the students at Ruston High School.
After meeting with and getting the support of the superintendent of Lincoln and Union Parishes, District Attorney John Belton, shared his plans to adapt a truancy-based program from one used by a District Attorney in Memphis, Tennessee. He spoke briefly on a mentoring component, which he firmly believes will be a means to reach out to children and encourage them to graduate from high school and avoid the justice system. Mr. Belton wants to add an element regarding prosecuting parents that would include bringing offenders to court, holding them accountable, but also offering a deferment program with rules. He summarized a Memorandum of Understanding for Deferment of Prosecution, and communicated his desire to find mentors in the community within businesses in the parish, local churches, and even junior and seniors in the area universities' schools of social work. In closing, he shared that youth who have mentors experience fewer unexcused absences at school, are less likely to abuse drugs, demonstrate more positive attitudes, display greater confidence in their school work, and show improved academic performance.
Director of Human Resources, Dr. Doris Lewis, continued with a personnel report. She communicated the:
1. Retirement of Haroldyne Murphy, paraprofessional at Cypress Springs, effective December 31, 2015.
2. Points of Reference/Transfers of:
Gwen Torbor from Youth Rescue Center to special education teacher at Ruston Elementary effective October 26, 2015, replacing Robbie Burnham who transferred;
Robbie Burhan from Ruston Elementary to special education teacher at Youth Rescue Center effective October 26, 2015, replacing Gwen Torbor who transferred;
Rik Cason from Ruston High to Transportation Coordinator at the Bus Barn effective January 4, 2016, replacing James Payton who would work part-time with new construction; and
Dan Gressett from teacher/coach at RHS to Interim Administrative Assistant at Ruston High effective January 4, 2016, replacing Rik Cason who transferred.
3. Employment of Elise Salsberry as bus aide in the Ruston District effective October 26, 2015, replacing Jamie Campbell who resigned.
Sales tax collections for the month ending October 31, 2015, were $2,125,342 which was up 49.68% compared to the same month last year and 57.50% year-to-date, according to George Murphy, Business Manager. After only four months, the collections were up over $3 million. Audits were down 36% year-to-date. In the 1967 and 1979 sales tax funds, $966,065 was collected, and $1,159,276 was added to the 1993 and 2000 funds. He said the primary reasons for the increase in the monthly sales taxes were oil and gas extractions and automotive dealers and service stations. Moving on to the September 2015 financial update, Mr. Murphy said the Total Fund Balance was up over $5 million compared to September 2014. George Murphy noted the self-insured health care fund was up $457,946 for the month of September 2015, but down over $900,000 year-to-date. Letters were recently sent to active and retired plan members explaining changes that would become effective January 1, 2016. Because they were unsure how the escalation in sales tax revenue would affect the school system's MFP allotment, Mike Milstead, Kathy Pool, Assistant Business Manager, and George Murphy met with representatives from the state's finance department on October 23, 2015. They calculated a decrease of $1.8 million in MFP funds for fiscal year 16-17 and $4 million for fiscal year 17-18. Mr. Murphy reminded board members that the more local wealth that is accrued and placed in the formula, the less money that will come from the state through the MFP. Much of the increase in sales taxes may be needed to offset the reduction of MFP dollars and to avoid drastic staff cuts he opined. Some staff reductions through attrition will be a strong possibility until the MFP revenue stabilizes. In a construction update, James Payton, Transportation Coordinator, said renovation and construction in general was going well, but recent rains had not helped. Since slabs had already been poured, the crews were erecting steel structures at Hillcrest, Ruston Elementary, and I. A. Lewis. The Ruston Junior High project was still in the site preparation stage with the men struggling to get anything done. Recent rains had caused a breach in the track project at Choudrant High School. He asked the Engineer, Paul Riley, to speak to that. Mr. Riley explained that the asphalt had been laid before the one and one-half feet of rain fell in the last couple of weeks. With that rain, there were some places where the trenches from the installation of the 30” storm drain pipe settled slightly. A few of those places were actually under the track, which caused holes in the asphalt. Pictures of the same were shown on the screen. The easy fix, like patching a road, would be done at no cost to the school system and should not delay the project past the mid-December projected completion date. He is worried about delay if it rains during the next two months though. When the track is finished, he pledged that it will be a good product.
The revision of four policies, EDD-School Bus Scheduling and Routing, JCDB-Student Dress Code, JDD-Suspension, and JDE-Expulsion, had been recommended at the last meeting. Mary Null, Assistant Superintendent, said she had just received word from Forethought Consulting, the policy manual service employed by the Board, that Suspension was being changed again. Ms. Null asked board members to make a decision regarding the proposed policy changes. Upon a motion by Mr. Hancock, seconded by Ms. Best, the Board unanimously voted to approve revisions to the EDD-School Bus Scheduling and Routing, JCDB-Student Dress Code, JDD-Suspension, and JDE-Expulsion policies. A Resolution for the second part of the refunding of the Series 2006 General Obligation School Bonds was next on the agenda. The first part was for $4,500,000 of Refunding Bonds, which netted the taxpayers a savings of $330,000, and the second part was for $635,000, which should net the taxpayers a savings of $40,000. Both refunding parts will have lower interest rates. George Murphy requested the Board to adopt the Resolution.
Upon a motion by Ms. Henderson, seconded by Mr. Hunt, the Board unanimously voted to adopt the Resolution providing for the issuance of $635,000 of General Obligation School Refunding Bonds, Series 2016, of Ruston School District No. 1.
The revision of eight policies, ABCF-Removal from Office, GAK-Personnel Records, GAMFA-Employee Communicable Diseases, GBRIA-Personal Leave, IDCJ-Supplemental Educational Services, II-Testing Program, JBD-Student Absences and Excuses, and JGCC-Student Communicable Diseases, and the addition of two new policies, GBRIJ-Leave Without Pay, and JGFH-Student Identification, were voiced by Mary Null. She asked board members to study the proposed policy changes until the next meeting. Lincoln Parish School Board members' expense allowance had not been increased in thirty years. Mr. Murphy indicated a statewide survey of all parish school boards showed the average pay was $634.89 for the members and $709.75 for the president; therefore, Finance Committee Chair, Lynda Henderson, and President, Otha Anders, were recommending that board members' expense allowance be increased from $400 per month to $600 per month effective January 1, 2016. In order to make that change, the Board Member Compensation and Expenses policy, BBBE, would have to be revised. Mr. Murphy urged the Board to approve those changes.
Superintendent Milstead communicated that surrounding parishes' average pay for board members was presently about $705 per month. Even if the board votes to approve the increase from $400 to $600, he noted their expense allowance would remain less than the surrounding parishes and the average in the state of Louisiana. Chairperson Henderson noted that currently Lincoln Parish's expense allowance was the lowest in the surrounding ten parishes. After one question from the public and upon a motion by Ms. Henderson, seconded by Mr. Hunt, the Board unanimously voted to approve the revised BBBE policy, Board Member Compensation and Expenses, and to increase the monthly expense allowance paid board members from $400 to $600 per month effective January 1, 2016.
Over the past year, the Child Nutrition Program has encountered numerous problems in acquiring food. George Murphy listed problems with delivery, unfilled orders, incorrect products, inconsistent deliveries, and shortage of bids that have affected the meals prepared. He and Doris Marzett, CNP Supervisor, believe that joining the Child Nutrition Purchasing Cooperative (CNPC), which has been in existence for 17 years, would reduce the problems that are occurring. The Coop includes the following school food authorities in northeast Louisiana: Caldwell, Catahoula, East Carroll, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, Tensas, Union, and West Carroll parishes. In order to join, the Board must approve a Resolution and Articles of Agreement that would become effective January 1, 2016. After that, prospective vendors would submit bids to the CNPC who would make the final decision regarding bids and purchasing. Mr. Murphy and Ms. Marzett asked the Board to approve the Resolution and Articles of Agreement for the CNPC. Upon a motion by Mr. Hancock, seconded by Mr. Mack, the Board unanimously voted to approve the Resolution and Articles of Agreement to allow the Lincoln Parish School Board to become a member of the Child Nutrition Purchasing Cooperative.
In a Report of the Superintendent, Mr. Milstead said:
1. A form indicating preferences for the 2016 LSBA convention in February was placed in portfolios. He asked board members to return the form to Becky Gemelli as soon as possible.
2. The administration's goal is for all schools to achieve the level that Ruston High has attained. The key, he believes, is to have quality teachers in place teaching according to the Louisiana Standards. Confirmation has to be GOTTEN that the right things are being taught - especially at the elementary level. Principals also need the autonomy to make changes to ensure that is being done.
3. The school system was very fortunate as far as the MFP was concerned to be in a stable financial position because of the voters in Lincoln Parish. Even with coming cuts, he feels very positive.
4.The LDOE still has not decided how to count certain scores related to School Performance Scores. They haven't decided how to count a social studies score or what test to use. Tomorrow he will travel to Baton Rouge to meet with other superintendents and John White, State Superintendent. He reminded board members that some students opted out of PARCC assessments last year, and the superintendents were also to hear how that issue would affect SPS. Lincoln had fewer than 50 students choose to opt out, and they were mainly at one school. When all of the above has been decided, the formulas will be finalized, and maybe the remaining eleven schools will receive School Performance Scores in December.
After comments from two board members and a question from another, upon a motion by Ms. Best, the meeting adjourned at 6:54 p.m.
Mike Milstead, Secretary Otha L. Anders, President
1td: November 17, 2015

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