The Luther School Board met behind closed doors Monday night for its annual evaluation of the superintendent and his contract. After 90 minutes, the four member board returned and without comment promptly voted 3-1 to extend Dr. Sheldon Buxton’s contract for another year. He does not get a raise or a reduction in his pay of a $90,000 base salary (total compensation $96,000).
Prior to the executive session, Dr. Buxton gave a financial report in which he outlined some of the district’s financial problems. He said a combination of the state’s revenue failure, unfunded state mandates, and his own misunderstanding of how to tell how much money the district has to spend led to the current budget crisis and inevitable cuts.
“Not an excuse, when I came to Luther, my charge was to grow the school. Grow the programs. Make some changes. I make apologies for not knowing … in my second year, there appeared to be new revenue … of over $900,000. My judgement on that was to fill program needs: art and design and fabrication. Things were looking really good, but that was a false read on my part. What I hate about this, is that in trying to do what I thought was best, now I have to retract that and make hard decisions,” said Buxton.
To survive this year, and into the next, cuts are expected of $400,000. Buxton has named a Task Force to evaluate all programs and will report back for the February board meeting. In addition, there is a district-wide spending freeze on non-essentials.
The agenda also featured an Auditor’s Report for 2014-2015 school year. This was the school’s auditor, not the State Auditor who is expected to come to the district later this year after a petition drive called for an official review. Darrel Johnston, CPA, from the Chickasha firm of Angel, Johnston & Blasingame, P.C., presented findings. Among other things, he told the board it was in a serious situation with expenditures of nearly a half-million dollars over revenue.
“I don’t mean to scare you. But you can not continue to spend more than you take in,” said Johnston. One problem, he explained, was the district celebrating a growth in property taxes with a spending spree without having realized that the state subtracts virtually the same amount in aid when ad valorem increases.
He also admonished the district for not providing more “segregation of duties” among those who handle the money. Whether it’s counting and recounting the cash from concession or ticket booths at home games, or making sure the one who collects the money and deposits is not the same person who reconciles the bank statements – he called for more accountability.
Other highlights from the board meeting:
- Parent Sheila Harp expressed support for the new band director.
- Jane Martin, concerned citizen, demanded the Superintendent’s ouster, again.
- School Board Candidate Jennifer Edmunson offered support for a four-day school week along with a year round school year to help close learning gaps. She said it would offer the district a distinctive to attract teachers.
- PAYING: The state auditor told them to, and to avoid a legal battle, the board voted to settle a 15-year-old property tax dispute with Oklahoma City Public Schools by paying $196,308.55 out of the sinking fund.
- APPROVED: Policy for lay coaches enabling the district to get coaching positions covered without hiring full-tme teachers. Wanted: baseball coach.
- HELP WANTED: A program called AARP Senior Community Service will hire at minimum wage those over 55-years-old to work at the school, and AARP will cover the paychecks. Dr. Buxton suggested the program will be a good fit for classroom and secretarial help. No word on whether applicant’s must be members in good standing with AARP.
- HIRED: Jessica Shatswell at the new band director now that she has her teacher certification.