In a surprise move at the end of Monday’s March school board meeting, Charles DeFuria resigned. He is the board member who has openly criticized the administration and has voted “no” on most agenda item involving money.
“I’m just tired,” he said during the New Business portion of the agenda after announcing his resignation effective immediately. He described having nightmares about the meetings, and the hours and hours of time he devoted to research, and understanding the laws and responsibilities governing a school district.
DeFuria had one more year to serve on his five-year term. His resignation does not take effect until the board acts on it, which it did not do Monday night.
“I hope when the State Auditor’s report is released, it’s not just shoved under the carpet, but anything found will be corrected,” he said referring to an ongoing investigative audit.
New board member Tony Rumpl thanked DeFuria for his service. “No one questions your passion,” said Rumpl.
Earlier in the meeting, DeFuria was the only “no” vote, as typical, on the “consent agenda” when the board considers minutes and payments on claims and encumbrances. DeFuria questioned an issue involving the district’s purchasing policy, and whether it has been updated to reflect the superintendent is no longer the sole purchasing agent. DeFuria later told the Luther Register that the practice of the superintendent obligating the district to contracts led to the district’s lawsuit with ARC Architecture.
When Superintendent Dr. Sheldon Buxton began to respond, DeFuria cut him off saying “don’t even bother.” It was a tense moment, but the meeting carried on.
However, later in the meeting, the board did table an item DeFuria questioned. It has to do with fees paid to those who negotiate or arbitrage existing bonds, in this case for bonds to build the high school in a complicated “lease-purchase.” DeFuria cited an editorial in The Oklahoman from November 2016, in which State Bond Advisor Jim Joseph said schools waste millions of dollars in such fees. DeFuria said the article noted that Joseph would help any school district. The board tabled the item, so that Mr. Joseph might be consulted regarding the estimated $15,000 annual fee on the bonds for about 15 more years.
The board has 60 days to deal with the board vacancy from the date it acts on DeFuria’s resignation. Since DeFuria had served more than half of his term, the board can either appoint a board member or hold a special election at a cost of about $3,000. The next board election is in 11 months.
In other news …
The meeting featured some talk about district finances, a calendar for the next school year and a resignation from a beloved teacher.
District Treasurer Gary Roy reported that the district has $2.325 million in the bank, now that state funding has come in, along with other revenue sources like property taxes in Oklahoma, Lincoln and Logan Counties.
If you ever wonder what the sources of revenue are for a school district, Mr. Roy breaks down the $5,529 million, and some items are included here for your information:
- Ad valorem … $3.081 million
- Gross production taxes … $4,740
- Motor vehicle taxes … $325,308
- Rural Electric coop … $155,604
- State school land … $12,660
- Foundation & salary incentives … $494,036
- Educational Flex Benefit Allowance … $542,713
- Title I – Basic Program … $182,125
- Title II – Part A … $31,228
- Individuals w/Disabilities … $134,297
- Cash forward … $197,991
Mr. Roy and Dr. Buxton told the board that it has successfully managed to spend only 53% of the budget, with only four months left in the budget year. However, Dr. Buxton said the board and its new superintendent should consider making up to $135,000 in cuts to offset projected losses in state revenue. Part of that loss is due to the district’s decline in enrollment numbers from a high of 960 two years ago.
“This district would benefit greatly with an (enrollment) of 1,000 students,” said Dr. Buxton. He said in hindsight, the error was his in the methods he used to increase that enrollment through transfer students and new programs over the last three years. Current enrollment is closer to 900 students than 1,000.
Board President Steve Broudy, after the meeting, said they will aim to avoid cutting any more teaching personnel when considering budget reductions.
The board approved the calendar for 2017-2018. Although Dr. Buxton said the current shortened school year likely has saved the district $100,000; he was recommending the calendar, unanimously agreed to by all faculty and staff, even though it adds 14 days to the year along with increased transportation, utility and food costs.
2017-2018 Calendar Highlights:
- August 17, 2017, first day of classes
- October 17-20, Parent Teacher conference/Fall Break
- November 20 – 24, Thanksgiving break
- December 22 – January 5, 2018, Christmas break
- March 12 – 16, Spring Break
- May 15, Last day of school
- SCHOOL HOURS: 8:00 am – 3:20 pm.
The board reluctantly accepted the retirement letter of Mrs. Shawna Stults. After a 31 year career in education, with 26 years at Luther, she will retire at the end of this school year. Mrs. Stults is credited with the success of the district’s Pre-K program. Elementary Principal Sheila Wilson called her a friend. “I have never met someone so in the moment with the children every single day. I will miss her.”
Middle School Principal Barry Gunn said Mrs. Stults has experience you can not replace.
The board will meet again this week, Thursday evening in a Special Meeting. Board President Broudy said the agenda item is to hire a new superintendent, and to consider the employment of all certified faculty for next year.
Mr. Gunn is the only candidate known to have interviewed for the superintendency at a Special Meeting on March 23. Another candidate did not show up for an interview that night. And last week’s special board meeting was cancelled because the candidate declined.
We will share the agenda when it is posted on Tuesday.
Monday’s school board meeting was broadcast on FB Live. Find the replays, part one and part two, here.
So sorry Charles has resigned. I thought progress could be made with the new board members. I would nominate Gary Roy or LeAnn Jackson to fill the vacancy. I think, in addition to the super, we need a board member capable of understanding a budget. I am sure, with a new super and fresh minds on the school board, enrollment numbers will increase.
The 2.4 million in the bank, needs to be broken down: 1,036,460 is General fund; salaries and monthly expenses (district has upper $300,000 payroll each month and receives little from the state because we have the power plant, Building fund $317,000, Child Nutrition $78,560 and salaries are paid out of these 3 funds, with largest payroll out of General Fund. The sinking fund is to pay our bonds: $1 million in there now but payment of $998,000 or so due in couple of months. by the time you pay your salaries, our finance picture isn’t that good.
And there is nearly $300,000 less in funds from the state because of revenue failure and it will get worse.