An issue that has left somewhat of a “sore spot” has two members of the Webster Parish School Board on opposing sides.

The board approved a policy in Monday’s meeting in which board members can no longer exceed their allotted travel expense without it coming before the board first.

Jerry Lott, board member, said the intent of the policy is to stay within the budget.

“The intent is to follow the budget we have and make our funds go as far as possible,” Lott said. “That’s the goal.”

Each board member is allotted roughly $800 per year for travel, and they may use these funds to travel to conferences or educational seminars earning their continuing education credits required by law.

It does not mean a board member cannot exceed their allotted limit, it just means if it does exceed, it has to come before the board for approval.

However, it appeared board member Frankie Mitchell took it to mean something different.

“I think this has been a sore spot every time we talk about having the board’s (approval),” Mitchell said. “You’re picking on my travel. That’s what this is about, because I want to go to know, to grow and be a good board member.

This should not be coming up again, because we just had (School Board Attorney Jon) Guice interpret this very thing two years ago.”

The policy revision, BBBE Cf:DJD, Board Members Compensation Expenses, reads, “Should a Board Member or Members of the Webster Parish School Board exceed their Board approved allotted travel allocation during a fiscal year of operation Member/Members shall be required to gain Board approval for any addition(al) travel or reimbursement funds.

“Board Members who have an unused travel allocation are not eligible to redistribute their allocation to another Board Member.”

While Lott and Mitchell continued to disagree, board member Robert Holloway said because teachers in Webster Parish have not had a raise in roughly four years, he’s paid his own way when he has to travel for the board.

“We are in trouble financially,” he said. “If we’re going to stop their (teacher raises) money from coming for three or four years, I think we need to show leadership. It’s just a little bit of money; I know that. It’s the idea of them sitting there not getting their money. If we want to go somewhere, we can spend our own money.”
The motion was made by Lott, seconded by Holloway and carried by a vote of nine to three. The three dissenting votes were board members Johnnye Kennon, Frankie Mitchell and Linda Kinsey.

In other news, the board approved procedures to “correct deficiencies as denoted in the Auditor’s report of April 30, 2014.”

“As a result of this audit report, here’s what the administration is working on,” Dr. Dan Rawls, Webster Parish Superintendent of Schools said. “We’re going to continue staff development on best practices. There’s a right way to handle money and there’s a wrong way to handle money. We’re going to teach them the right way.”

A special meeting was called Monday, October 27 to discuss this very thing. Several exceptions were noted in audits of four senior high schools, but no money was missing. Margie Williamson, CPA and auditor said the overall audits were acceptable.

Rawls specifically mentioned booster clubs as it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of their dollars and control their financial practices.

Crevonne Odom, finance director, says all 501(c)3 booster clubs have cooperative endeavor agreements with the school board. If they are directly under the school, then the school board has direct control over the money management.

“If the money is run through the school account, they have to adhere to the policies and procedures of the Webster Parish School Activity Fund Policy Manual,” she clarified.

Other measures are being taken to ensure this particular school is following proper guidelines.

However, these procedures were put in place to prevent another incident – not specifically mentioned in the meeting – from occurring again. Meetings were held with all the principals, assistant principals, secretaries and staff of all four schools to go over these practices and how to handle these accounts.

The next school board meeting will be at 6 p.m., Monday, December 1, at at North Webster High School. The meeting will be followed by Christmas dinner for the board members.