School board tables contract renewals  

The Italy School Board of Trustees tabled action regarding contract renewals for the elementary and high school principals, director of special programs and athletic director at its monthly meeting Monday evening.
 
After spending a little more than two hours in executive session the board voted to hold a workshop Monday, Feb. 28, to discuss reducing personnel costs.
 
Charles Williams, interim superintendent, gave board members a booklet entitled “Reducing Personnel Costs” which gives boards several options when facing financial challenges. Some of the options the board could consider include: freezing pay, reducing pay, hiring freeze, reassigning remaining staff, reduction of at-will positions, reduction in force of term contracts, reduction of term contract positions (end of contract), reduction in force of term contract positions (mid-contract) and offering exit incentives.
 
Williams informed the board the district should expect to lose $100,000 based on students leaving the district and average daily attendance. He also said $188,000 in utilities have been paid by stimulus money that ends this year. Teachers also received TRE-funded pay increases totaling $57,000. That money disappears this year.
 
Williams said the district could be forced to absorb between $500,000 to $710,000 in funding for next year’s budget.
 
He told board members that they have cut the current budget significantly and the next place to cut is personnel.
 
On the bright side, Williams said the board does have a fund balance. He said the district would be forced to use that fund balance over the next four years. He said there would be several bankrupt school districts in the state of Texas by that time.
 
Tommy Morrison, board member, again complained about the district spending TRE money instead of what they promised voters.
 
Initially the district did spend TRE money for technology, lighting and HV/AC but those funds have since been absorbed into this year’s budget.
 
Morrison said it does not look as if the state will dip into their “rainy day” funds and questioned why the board should dip into their fund balance.
 
Williams returned the question with another, “Do you want to gut your whole staff?”
 
Curtis Riddle, board member, said losing students is taking a toll on the district’s financial situation but noted they were operating with the same number of teachers.
 
Williams said the district is enforcing truancy, something they have not done in the past. State law considers every student absent if not at school at 10 a.m. The state does not compensate the district for that student on that day.
 
Current enrollment is 589 students on both campuses with average daily attendance at 575.71. District enrollment this time last year was 640 students.
 
Riddle said teacher absenteeism has also hurt the district.
 
Tammie Gillespie, business manager, said they have exhausted the substitute teacher budget.
 
Riddle stressed that both teachers and students need to be at school every day.
 
Cheryl Owen, board president, said she has been affiliated with the district since 1972 and has never seen the bleak financial outlook that so many schools across the state are facing.
 
Williams did have good news regarding benchmark testing.
 
He said the math and science scores saw significant increases at the high school campus. In fact, he said every area went up at the high school. He said he has not seen elementary scores yet.
 
He warned, however, about getting too excited because the actual testing begins next month.
 
Williams named Casey Holden, math teacher, as employee of the month.
 
He said Holden, a 1996 graduate of Italy High School, graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in December of 1999. She taught in Italy for five years and then left. She came back to the district last year during the Saturday Knock-Out, a TAKS preparation program.
 
He said she has done a good job filling “holes” in the current curriculum since she has been back at the district.
 
In other business, Williams said the Marty Haight family and Mark Stiles donated $2,000 each to have calculators available for students during TAKS testing.
 
Williams said the district must return a $9,950 donation accepted last month from Tina Haight because the district cannot match the donation. An athletic donation, he explained, must be spent equally on boys and girls programs.
 
The board also called for a joint city council and school board trustee election May 14 at Italy City Hall Council Chambers.
 
The seats currently held by Tommy Morrison and Paul Cockerham will be up for re-election.
 
Early voting begins May 2 and lasts until May 10 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. in council chambers. Two extended hours voting days are May 3 and May 10 from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
 
Anyone interested in running for the school board may pick up a packet from the superintendent’s office. The packets must be completed and returned to the district by 5 p.m. on Monday, March 14.
 
Teri Murdock, city secretary/administrator, is early voting clerk; Ronda Cockerham, assistant city secretary, is alternate early voting clerk; Lucinda Martinez is election judge; Monica Lambert is alternate election judge; and Christ Lambert is election clerk.
 
Williams also discussed a complaint regarding pest management.
 
Williams said he did not see a serious problem at either campus regarding pest control. He said Speed Hamby, maintenance director, is certified in pest control application and saves the district a considerable amount of money over hiring a pest control service.
 
Williams said it is impossible to keep all mice away, noting that they catch one or two mice per week.
 
The board also voted to take old and tattered flags to Karen Mathiowetz, a veteran, who will make certain they are disposed of properly.
 
The board also named Gillespie as authorized district representative for Tex Pool, approved Update 89 of the board policy manual, approved minutes from the Jan. 24 meeting and financial reports.
 
The meeting ended at 10:25 p.m.

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