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Webster Parish School Board hears concerns over school property standards

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Adam Harris brought concerns before the Webster Parish School Board Monday regarding maintenance issues at north Webster schools that he felt needed to be addressed. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald

Concerns over lights out and alleged unkempt school property appeared to bring the ire of some Webster Parish School Board members Monday.

A concerned citizen and PTO member say schools on the northern end of the parish are not being kept properly. Adam Harris addressed the board regarding Browning Elementary, Brown Upper Elementary and North Webster High School. He called the campuses beautiful, but said they need some work.

“What brought this up is I was dropping my kid off on the first day of school, and the grass was not cut to what I thought would be a desirable condition for the first day of school,” he said. “Also, there is an ordinance in the City of Springhill on maintaining property standards, grass heights as well.”

Harris, who is an alderman, says he took the issue to Facebook, and others commented on his post on things they’d seen over the last six months.

“Outside of the grass getting cut or not cut, there are a lot of lights out on the campuses and a lot of broken windows,” he said.

At Browning Elementary, he says there are a total of 25 outdoor light fixture, 19 were out, and of those 19, 10 were emergency lights. He also says he discovered several broken windows as well.

At Brown Upper Elementary, Harris says there are 45 outdoor lights and 28 of those are out.

“Also, all of the parking lot lights are out, which is a safety concern for us,” he said. “I’ve been on the PTO, and when my daughter went through there, we did a few things like the fall carnival.”

Several windows were broken there as well, he said.

NWHS is his biggest concern, he says, because it is a beautiful facility. He says of 98 outdoor lights, 58 of those are out. Some of those include parking lot lights, and the stadium has no security lights on at night, he said.

District 2 board member Malachi Ridgel says he hasn’t seen the campuses in the conditions Harris describes.

“I toured the campuses for several days, and I did it at night,” he said. “I didn’t see that. There may be a hidden agenda here somewhere, but at Browning in particular, they were mowing the yard, and the mower quit. They just got it out of the shop yesterday. So to go around and say this is not being done is incorrect.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls says the responsibilities of lighting and property maintenance falls on the shoulders of each school principal.

“It’s his or her responsibility to make sure all health and safety issues are covered,” he said.

“The custodians are the ones who tell them when something is wrong. I’ll talk to the principals and make sure they get word to the custodians to make sure the lights are getting changed out.”

He says with nine days of rain on its way, it will be difficult to cut grass.

“I personally visited all the campuses, and I did not see a single campus that was not ready to open,” Rawls said. “That’s just my opinion.”

Harris says he has not contacted any of the school principals to address his concerns. District 11 Board Member Jerry Lott encouraged him to contact the principals.

When Sam Mims addressed the board regarding Harris’ concerns, he says he doesn’t know the whole story but it appeared that Harris was attacked over his concerns.

“I attend more than just this meeting, and it just seems sometimes the atmosphere from the board to the citizens is antagonistic,” he said.

Brandon Edens, District 1, says he owned his attitude, although he didn’t mean anything towards Harris. He says he knew the lawnmower was in the shop the Thursday before school started.

“I just take it personal when someone attacks the schools,” he said.

In other news, the board approved:

  • the Louisiana Compliance Questionnaire for fiscal year 2015-16,
  • replacement of the chain link fence at North Webster Junior High School by Pepper Fence LLC for $8,140, using the Sarepta Maintenance Fund,
  • network drops and wireless in the two new T-buildings at J.L. Jones Elementary by Carousel Industries for $3,918.34, using District 6 half-cent sales tax,
  • installation, repair and reseal roofing at Minden High School by John Gibbs Roof Systems Inc., for $17,681 using District 6 half-cent sales tax,
  • replacement of two drain pans in both office areas at Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School by Mechanical Cooling Services for $2,800, using Consolidated District 3 funding,
  • installation of surge protection at North Webster Lower Elementary School for $4,490, by Moro Electric LLC, using Shongaloo Building Fund,
  • a request for Minden High School to purchase approximately 50 single desk chairs from Business Machine Supply at $25 each, for up to $1,500, using District 6 half-cent sales tax,
  • replacement and cleanup of old fence damaged by a tree at Lakeside for $1,000 by Keith Jellum Fence Company, using Consolidated 3 Maintenance Fund,
  • the purchase of a new portable sound system for Lakeside for $2,602.86, using Consolidated 3 Maintenance Fund, and
  • the personnel report.

A special meeting was set for 6 p.m., Monday, Aug. 29, to reward bids on the project for the new wings at Webster Junior High School and J.A. Phillips Middle School. Bids will be opened at 2 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 25. The next monthly meeting is set for 6 p.m., Monday, Sept. 12.