Of the 116 pages of the June 27 Luther School Board meeting, well more than half were copies of proposed fund-raisers to fund student activities next school year. The fundraisers are for AP Science and prom, basketball, cheer and other sports, elementary student activities, the library and art. Student life will proceed as best as it can as the district embarks on a bare-bones budget for 2016-2017.
Some of the fund-raisers are typical like cookie dough sales, and some are more creative like an outdoor movie night and a Luther take on TV shows like American Ninja Warrior (a kinder gentler version) or “Luther’s Got Talent,” and even a dog show! Student activities won’t fund themselves, nor will the general fund – not that it ever does.
The board approved all of the fund-raising ideas without question.
Speaking of that 116-page school board agenda, copies were not made available (understandably) because the superintendent’s office is about out of paper, like everyone else at the schools. Thee whole agenda is online.
Monday night, the board listened for an hour to Mr. Tim Green. He is the consultant who Superintendent Sheldon Buxton hired to help make sense of the MAS accounting system and other matters of school money and policy. Green is a traveling professional who provides onsite training across the state now that he has retired as superintendent of Bartlesville Public Schools. Hired by Dr. Buxton in February, the board was asked to approve Green’s consultancy at a meeting earlier in June (that action item passed by a three-to-two vote). He hasn’t been paid for his $50 hourly fees, yet.
Green shared slides and financial information about Luther schools. Some takeaways include:
- LPS has a slim carryover to get through the lean times between now all the way until January when tax checks are cut from the county.
- The district is in serious need of updated board policies, according to Green. Incidentally, it came up later in the meeting the district also wants outside help to get school policies streamlined and searchable online.
- Green reiterated that school finance is complicated and it’s tougher on small schools when administrators might not have finance as their strong suit, and there is not staff to cross-train on important practices like encumbrances and purchase orders.
- He pointed out a couple of school policies were illegal, (not willfully), and lectured in auditor-like fashion about the proper way to do Purchase Orders for everyone – including the teacher who might buy supplies and expect to get reimbursed without a PO, in which case Green said the answer is “thank you for your donation to the school!”
- Green assured the board that by next meeting their encumbrance docket (bills to pay) will be clearer and more orderly.
Green’s presentation was enlightening. He assured the board that Luther is not alone in needing to correct its financial practices, and cut more spending. He also said most districts in the state also are struggling under state revenue failures.
Some of the policy revisions are expected to be presented at the August meeting, according to Dr. Buxton’s answer to the timing question by Board President Matt Mohr.
In other meeting action, the board agreed to accept eight transfers into the school district this school year – students from outside of the district. Dr. Buxton said that number is down from previous years.
New high school principal Jerry Martin presented a student handbook for his building outlining some discipline procedures such as lunch detention and work duty to avoid suspension, a phone policy and clamping down on students driving around unauthorized during the school day. The public was not offered a copy of the proposed policy and the board is expected to vote on it before school starts.
The board approved six resignations: Mrs. Misty Starkey, Mrs. Tracie Muck, Mrs. Tanya Sasser, Mrs. Rebecca Priddy, Mrs. Michelle Schmidt and Mrs. Karley Fesler.
Fesler serves as the district’s Treasurer and works in the superintendent’s office. She is resigning after 19 years with the district saying she has another job opportunity.
Because of retirements and resignations, some teachers who were part of this spring’s Reduction in Force action have been “re-hired” and include: Mrs. Jennifer Greene, Mrs. Kim McGlasson, Mrs. Ashley Killingsworth, Mr. Darrel Bishop, Mr. Matt Jones, Mrs. Mary Beth Wilson (as a part-time elementary reading tutor) and Mrs. Staci Pickens.
During the “New Business” part of the meeting, the district heard a sales pitch to switch to LED lights in all of the buildings. Although it would require an upfront cost of about $247,000, the representative from NegaWatt Partners said OG&E would kick in $64,000 and the rest of the $180,000 could be paid out and would also be recovered in energy savings.
Also in new business, the board heard about a $38,000 mistake. It seems that amount was the monthly payment NOT sent to the teacher’s retirement system in November 2011 for all eligible employees. The mistake was caught when a recent retiree was tapping into the fund. The board voted to fix the mistake by writing the check.
The Luther Register broadcast the meeting on Periscope viewable here. Apologies for the poor audio quality and shaky screen. We learn as we go and pledge to improve.
That is not unlike what Dr. Buxton said in a rare short response to a call for his ouster by citizen Jane Martin who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“My desire, my entire goal for the school district is to bring it in financial compliance that is both legal and understandable,” said Dr. Buxton.
The board takes July off and meets again in August. The new school calendar with the shortened school year makes the first day of the 2016-2017 school year on September 6 (8 am – 3:40 pm).