School board saves money on refinancing
Monday night’s Webster Parish School Board meeting included substantial savings for taxpayers, good news for parish schools and more controversy over school colors.
Grant Schluter, parish bonding attorney for Foley & Judell, presented the board good news about their recently-adopted resolution to refinance a $12,500,000 bond issue in efforts to save money for Webster Parish taxpayers.
“We have great news on the refinancing,” Schluter said. “The savings to taxpayers is substantially greater than what was projected when you gave the preliminary approval for the refinancing.
“The net savings when we started this process was estimated at $562 thousand – the net of all cost to taxpayers over the remaining life of the bond issue. The actual savings will be $763,000 and change, “ he said.
While savings for WP taxpayers were big so was the news Mary Copeland, accountability and test coordinator, announced before she presented test score highlights.
State Superintendent (John) White announced that Webster Parish is among the top 12 parishes in the state for the percent of students we have that are performing at or above level,” she said.
Copeland pointed out that third grade had the most advance and mastery levels in all of the grades; in fourth grade the percent of students meeting promotion standards rose from 68 percent last year to 76 percent this year; fifth grade excelled in several areas but one example included 70 percent of students scored advanced mastery or basic in math and in ELA 72 percent.
There was also a percent increase for those meeting promotional standard in eighth grade; and at the high school level scores went from 17 percent to 25 percent in advance and mastery for science and in social studies scores rose from 6 percent last year to 10 percent this year.
Lisa Toland, principal of Central Elementary, addressed the school board in reference to the changing of the school colors due to opposition put forth by Central community members and Central alumni led by Kenneth Wallace.
Wallace is concerned that the importance of the history of the Central community is being unfairly overlooked.
The colors changed last year from maroon and gold to Lakeside High School colors of blue, red and white, according to Toland, in efforts to make the transition for students to Lakeside easier and give all the students that have been consolidated a sense of unity. In an attempt to compromise, the school mascot is still a dragon.
After lengthy and sometimes heated discussion between board members, the board decided to bring the issue back for vote in a year, after Toland conducts another survey and the results are brought to the table.
One point of interest that caused tempers to rise among board members was a difference of opinion about Frankie Mitchell’s request that Toland should have kept and presented copies of the results of the survey for the change of school colors.
“How do we know? … I’m not calling you a liar but usually something like this you certainly have proof of the survey,” Mitchell said.
According to Toland and teachers in the audience, the survey results were last seen in a brown envelope that was delivered to Central office personnel last year.
“Usually if you come to court,” continued Mitchell, “you will have something to verify that these are the numbers of the survey and things like that. To keep the peace you needed that documentation.”
After more discussion Robert Holloway addressed the board by applauding the school for their compromise of changing the colors but keeping the dragon as mascot.
“I applaud them for doing that. They didn’t have to do that but they did,” he said. “And I trust them. I trust the principal. I trust that they did the right thing and they counted the votes right.”
At that point Mitchell spoke up and said, “I don’t mistrust them.”
Holloway answered, “I didn’t say you did Ms. Mitchell. I was speaking for myself.”
“That’s the only one you can speak for,” Mitchell replied.
At that point, board president Johnnye Kennon loudly rapped the gavel several times and the meeting was brought back to order.
During the night’s debate, board member Charles Strong posed a question.
“It looks to me like the question that is before the board is, has the information that’s been presented to us by Mr. Wallace and others risen to the level that would cause this board to need to take action to overturn a decision that was implemented a year ago,” Strong said.
Board member Penny Long suggested Toland redo the survey and the suggestion to keep the colors as they are for one year was presented by board member Frankie Mitchell.
The motion was passed with all present voting yes and Ronnie Broughton abstaining.
• Executive Secretary Elizabeth Brewer retired, effective June 1, after 46 years of dedicated service.
• The board approved the Doyline School project be moved to phase II.
• Also approved was the announcement that North Webster High School is in need of a head football coach following the transfer of head coach Joey Pesses to Lakeside High School as interim head football coach. Former Lakeside head coach Terry Quarles was reassigned to Minden High School as Special Education teacher and Dean of Students.
• Permission was granted to announce the vacancy for the principal position at North Webster Jr. High School.
The next Webster Parish School Board meeting will be held June 25 at 6 p.m.