School district finalizing budget

Stanley Blackmon took over as conservator of the Hazlehurst School District on July 1.

The restructuring of the Hazlehurst School District should speed up once the budget is finalized, state officials told the crowd at the Hazlehurst School Board meeting Monday morning.

Thus far since the state takeover the conservators have been getting a handle on the situation in the district, but once they know what the budget will be they can further develop a plan of action.

The budget is being finalized now, with final administrative review set for July 18-21 and advertisement for a planned tax increase scheduled for July 23 and 30. The budget hearing is set for August 7, and it should be approved on August 14.

Dr. Joe Haynes, interim conservator, reported that they will go to the limit with the budget this year, continuing work on it  until the deadline.

In the effort to get the district financially sound, some tough decisions had to be made. “You know the situation,” said Haynes. “You’ve read the newspapers.”

Although some decisions don’t sit well with the public, including  the elimination of some jobs, the decisions were necessary, Haynes reported.

Haynes’ last day as conservator was June 30. Stanley Blackmon took over as conservator on July 1. Haynes will serve as advisor to Blackmon through the first semester of the school year.

Haynes thanked the school board for being present at the meeting, explaining that the board members will have a role under the conservatorship. He encouraged them to ask any questions they wanted.

In other business, the board approved claims totaling $203,345. Board members Wyatt Lewis and Martin Washington voted no. Washington said they had not had time to review the claims docket. Haynes advised that the school board has no legal liability for the claims under the conservatorship.

In an effort to get financial reports ready for the board’s review prior to meetings, the regular board meeting was changed to the third Tuesday of each month at 5:00. The board has not been receiving timely financial information in the past because of the schedule, financial advisor Suzanne Smith reported. The new schedule will give the staff an extra week to reconcile bank statements and prepare reports, and it will work better with the payroll schedule.

The low quote for insurance coverage was approved from the school board association’s casualty insurance trust through the board’s local agent. Joining the pool with about ten other school districts will save about $50,000.

Personnel approved include: Paulette Smith, special education; Percy Butler, math; Todd McDaniel, athletic director, head football coach and physical education; Carol Neal, special education; Andra Carter, social studies, 9th grade boys basketball, high school football and power lifting; Chastidy Sandifer, social studies, head girls basketball, varsity track.

Resignations were accepted from Mary Udoh, 4th grade; Mary Donald, 3rd grade; Brenda Staszefski, 3rd grade; Lisa King, kindergarten; Barbra Reese, 5th grade math; Diane Thomas, 6th grade social studies; Earnestine Bridges, child nutrition; Shenetra Wren-Johnson, 1st grade; Cecelia Allen, kindergarten; and Jay Norals, deputy superintendent.

About 20 teacher salaries have been cut, and there are still 22 openings. Concerns have been raised about class size, but Jean Massey advised that the largest class size  expected is about 25. The athletic program will also continue.

A request for student transfer from Hazlehurst to Jackson public schools was denied. The parent requested the transfer based on the school’s lack of accreditation and inability to provide the student with a good education, but Massey explained that the school district is still accredited, and they will see to it that every child receives a good education. Graduates can still get into college with diplomas from Hazlehurst, she said.

Meal prices will be raised to cover increased costs. All districts are going up, Haynes explained. Student breakfast will cost 75 cents; adult breakfast will be $1.75; student lunch will be $1.75; and adult lunch will be $3.00.

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