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Some progress made in financial recovery

Transfers between funds to pay off interfund loans and other routine financial matters were the only items on the agenda during a brief meeting of the Hazlehurst School District last Tuesday.

Suzanne Smith, financial advisor to the district, explained that a transfer will pay back a loan made last year between funds. The cash flow has improved in the district, she explained. Part of the district’s recovery plan includes repaying interfund loans.

The budget for 2007-2008 was amended as required. In District Maintenance about $942,000 was spent more than revenue, while Child Nutrition spent $193,000 more than revenue. The ending negative was $871,000, which shows quite a lot of progress made in reducing the district deficit, Smith pointed out.

The original problem in the District Maintenance fund is about a third of the way fixed, Smith told the crowd at the meeting. Officials hope it will be mostly fixed by the end of the year. Officials project no more than a $300,000 or $400,000 deficit at the end of the year.

But eliminating the deficit is only part of the plan to get the Hazlehurst School District back into good financial shape.

“$1.2 to 1.5 million would be a healthy fund balance for a district this size,” Smith said. “We are making progress.”

After the financial matters were handled, Conservator Stanley Blackmon addressed some parent concerns informally after the meeting adjourned.

Questions were asked about changes in the bus dropoff time, to which Blackmon replied that the schedule was changed based on information given by the administrators. Adjustments have also been made to the schedule to keep kids who have just had breakfast from returning to the cafeteria an hour and a half later for lunch, Blackmon pointed out.

“We will try to make the right adjustments along the way,” he said. “We will address all those concerns.”

 Other matters such as PTA meetings and homecoming plans were briefly discussed. Blackmon said that there are no plans to disrupt any activities that would be beneficial to students. Homecoming would proceed as it had in the past.

Another citizen asked why Hazlehurst has been the focus of such a media frenzy in the Jackson paper and TV stations. Blackmon suggested a possible reason may be that Hazlehurst is the first troubled school district taken over by the state that has been an easy driving distance from Jackson, so it is more accessible to reporters.

Blackmon pointed out that the Hazlehurst band rated superior in the band festival the previous weekend, and the football team is undefeated in district play. He urged parents and citizens to pass along these items of good news.

Another questioned why the state came in to the Hazlehurst district when it was only a Level 2 when other schools with low ratings have not been subject to a state takeover. The citizens were told that the state came in a year ahead of schedule to put a plan of action in place to keep the test scores in Hazlehurst from slipping any further.

Questions about lesson plans and feedback for teachers were referred to the principals on each campus. “The principals set the tone for the whole building,” said Blackmon.

The brief meeting was posted as a Hazlehurst School District meeting rather than a school board meeting. The only school board member present was Marvin Minor, who asked Blackmon for an update on the status of the school board. Minor said he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be there, since it wasn’t called a school board meeting. Blackmon deferred the question until later, saying officials are looking into several matters related to the school board, and he would get back to Minor later.

Another Hazlehurst School District meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 28.

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