“The superintendent search committee met and began the process of deciding how we needed to go about making the selection of our next superintendent,” WPSB President Charles Strong said. Strong is one of five, including Johnnye Kennon, Jerry Lott, Malachi Ridgel, and Frankie Mitchell, that make up the search committee.
“The committee wanted to present two options to the Board for consideration of possible action,” Strong said.
The first is to meet with an outside consultant. The meeting would be free of charge and would outline the services offered by consultant. The board would then decide if employing the consultant was in order.
The second option is to follow the board’s handbook, that describes how the board must advertise, screen and hire for the superintendent’s position. This would involve the board’s attorney to review the process to ensure they adhere to the policy.
Applications would be mailed to the board president and remain sealed until the start of the screening process which would involve the entire board.
“We could at least entertain the consultant and listen to what services they would offer,” Mitchell said noting that meeting with them would be free of charge for the initial consultation.
Robert Holloway asked if the WPSB has used a consultant in the past to hire for the position. Mitchell offered that she did not recall a consultant being used.
Holloway then asked exactly what a consultant would be able to offer.
“I would assume that they would develop and run the ads, possibly screen the applicants and perhaps recommend,” Strong said. “What they would do for us and how much it would cost would be discussed if we were to meet with them.”
“So we would basically be paying them to do our job,” Holloway said. “We could do the same thing they are going to do, and have done it in the past, but we would have to pay.”
Holloway also questioned what the funds would be used to pay a consultant.
“Would we pay them out of the general fund?” he asked. “Aren’t we trying to save money?”
Mitchell suggested the consultant might be beneficial for some of the board members.
“Many of you have not had training on how to hire a superintendent,” she said “This would give some oversight to make sure we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.”
Strong offered that the use of the board’s attorney could be used to make sure the process was implemented correctly.
“But tell me, does he come free?” Mitchell asked.
The attorney is paid a yearly retainer, despite how much the board utilizes services. Attorneys then charge an hourly fee for services if they represent, defend, or look over documents.
The board passed Mitchell’s motion 8 to 10 to meet with the consultants. Board members Jerry Lott and Bruce Williams were not present. Holloway and Kennon were opposed.
Strong made a motion to continue the process of preparing the search for superintendent until it was known for certain if the services of a consultant would be used.
Nine were in favor with Mitchell abstaining from the vote.
A special meeting of the school board will be held on May 16 to meet with the consultant to discuss services provided and related cost.
Mitchell also questioned the ability of the board to search for a new superintendent.
“Do you think we can hire a new superintendent if we can’t even buy shirts?” Mitchell said.
Mitchell was referring to a lengthy discussion on the uniform policy for maintenance staff at schools and the central office.
Business and Finance Director Crevonne Odom made the board aware of dissatisfaction with the current uniform suppliers.
“The cost (for the service) has gone up each year we have been in contract,” Odom said. “There have been complaints of missing, ill-fitting and dirty uniforms. Principals often write comments on the invoices saying they and the employees are unhappy with the services.”
Cost for the service from Aramark is approximately $15,000 a year and is expected to rise. The service includes a week’s worth of laundered uniforms, delivery and pick up of uniforms needing to be laundered.
Board member Penny Long was opposed to the removal of the policy.
“What concerns me is, if you remove the policy, you also remove the supply of uniforms for these employees,” Long said. “I understand they are near the bottom of the pay scale. I hate to think of taking something like this completely away from an employee who may be at poverty level.”
Long said she did not like the idea of the cost of work clothes becoming a burden to an employee near the bottom of the pay scale.
The school board voted to change the policy so uniforms were no longer required as stated in previous policy.
After the vote, Mitchell made a motion to provide the employees with three shirts.
There was some confusion about what type of shirts Mitchell was suggesting and if the WPSB could supply the shirts when the board had voted to remove the uniform policy minutes before.
“You just voted to remove the policy effective July 1,” Odom said. “So you would need a new policy to be written and approved in order to be able to purchase shirts for the employees, before July 1.”
Ronnie Broughton questioned the fairness of purchasing uniforms for one type of employee and not others.
“If we are making the purchase for one group of employees, will we be asked by (others to do the same for them)?” he asked.
Mitchell offered a solution.
“Until they do so, let it ride,” she said.
In the end Mitchell’s motion was not approved by the board. The removal of the uniform policy will take effect in July.