One Webster Parish School Board member wants to cut the number of board members from 12 to seven or nine citing financial savings.
John Madden, District 6, said if his numbers were correct, the board could save about $44,000 (from $107,000 to $62,000) if the board reduced its ranks by three or even six board members.
“I certainly think we could do more with less,” he said. “We’re asking our teachers, principals and everyone associated to do more with less, so we certainly can.”
He presented some numbers, saying in 1963, Webster Parish had more than 10,000 students with a 10-member board, and today, that number has dwindled to just over 6,000 with a 12-member board. He offered a proposal of reducing the board to either seven or nine board members, keeping the makeup an odd number to avoid ties during a vote on school board business.
The school board and the Webster Parish Police Jury’s district lines are about the same, and the last time a demographer redrew the district lines, it cost about $60,000. Madden said if the board decided to reconsider this request, they would have to take on the entire cost, and it would take “a long time” to get it done.
However, some board members weren’t happy with the prospect of reducing their number for a variety of reasons, one being the cost. Others said the smaller communities would lose their voice. Even still, others said it just didn’t make sense.
“I don’t feel that the smaller towns would have a say at all,” Ronny Rhymes, District 5, said. “I’ll emphasize what Scott Richard said in our meeting in New Orleans. It’s more about the quality of education you give to your children than it is about money. We have good schools in Cotton Valley, Sarepta, Shongaloo and Doyline, and if you take that away, the smaller schools wouldn’t have a voice.”
Jerry Lott, District 11, said if they knew about where the district lines would be, Madden’s proposal might have a little more support.
“Where those district lines are drawn to accommodate seven members would certainly indicate that the larger the population, the more board members they would have,” he said. “If you end up with one particular segment that has three, maybe four members, you could end up with a dominating factor where three or four of those board members are from the same area and the smaller areas being left out. I wouldn’t be very supportive not knowing where those lines are going to be. I really can’t see where it would benefit education in our parish, and that’s the bottom line.”
The general consensus on who has the authority – the people or the board members – to reduce or increase their number, appeared to be with the board; it may not have to go before the voters. No decision was made regarding the matter.
In other news, Ursula Hullaby talked about the upcoming Back to School Bash slated for Aug. 7.
They expect to help about 1,800 students this year, she said.
“This is an event that has become near and dear to many of our hearts up here,” Interim Superintendent of Schools Johnny Rowland said. “Hullaby has done an excellent job of promoting this, raising funds, getting people together, along with the committee. It’s near and dear to our parents and our children as well.”
They’ve added the medallion level of contribution, which is anything over $500, and three donations over $500 have come in, Hullaby said.
“This is something we’re really excited about,” she said. “We’ve had people calling and asking to volunteer. This is a big deal, and we want the support of the board and the community as a whole.”
In other news, the board approved several items for repairs at schools in the north end of the parish:
A bid from Heath Sexton for $47,980 for tree removal and cleanup at North Webster Lower Elementary, to be funded from the Shongaloo School Buildings Fund
A proposal to provide labor and material to install plumbing only at North Webster High School’s baseball field sewer line replacement for $4,550, using the Springhill Lease Fund
William Bullock Stump Grinding for $350 to grind stumps left from tree removal at North Webster Jr. High School, to be funded from the Sarepta Maintenance Fund
Mark Dunn to make repairs to the main building damaged by a leaking roof at NWJHS for $15,225, to be paid for using the Sarepta Maintenance Fund
Mark Dunn to paint the gym and cafeteria at NWJHS for $11,300, using the Sarepta Maintenance Fund.
They also approved some work for Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School. All purchases and installation will be paid for using the Consolidated 3 Maintenance Fund. The board approved:
Detel to install 30 Cat-6 Network Drops for $5,400
The purchase of three Promethean Active Boards with accessories from AXI Education Solutions for the four new classrooms for the sixth graders for $9,159, and
The purchase of three wireless access points from Carousel Industries for $1,677.