By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The Escambia County Board of Education, sitting one member short, took care of a lot of business in a little time last Thursday, September 14, during the panel’s regular meeting.
The biggest item during the one-hour session was approval of an operating budget for Fiscal Year 2024, but school officials also shelled out or committed to shelling out more than $333,000 for new educational and other software, tighter school security and other items.
Chief Schools Financial Officer (CSFO) Rochelle Richardson presented and explained the budgetary figures twice on Thursday, during a morning hearing in Atmore and an afternoon hearing at the Brewton Central Office, just prior to the regular board meeting.
During the afternoon hearing, Richardson told the board next year’s financing package was a conservative one.
“I like to keep it on the low side, stay conservative,” she said. “I’d rather budget low, and we come in way heavy, than to over-budget.”
The budget approved by the six BOE members present (District 1’s Kevin Hoomes was unable to attend) calls for General Fund revenues of just over $42 million and expenditures of just over $47 million, with a projected deficit of almost $6 million that will come from funds being carried over from the fiscal year currently winding down.
The addition of Special Revenue funds, Capital Projects funds and funds from fiduciary trusts, gives the total budget a value of $73 million. When projected expenditures from each fund are considered, there is a slight reduction in the deficit.
(The budget documents are available online at escambiak12.net. Once on the site, go to “SYSTEM,” look for Business & Finance in the pulldown menu, then follow the prompts.)
The system’s chief accountant also said during the hearing that most of the funds county schools received under Phase II of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program have been spent or will be spent by the deadline of September 30.
“We’re pretty good on that,” she said. “And we’re already getting a good start on the ESSER III funds, which have to be spent by September 30, 2024.”
Superintendent Michele McClung then went over a list of proposed expenditures, each of which also received unanimous approval, that included four items — a total of $202,127.36 — for which ESSER III funds will pay.
Those are: $77,605 for an enhanced visitor management program (from Centegix, for three years): $103,500 to Bailey Education Group for administrator training and coaching support; $14,087.36 to Brightly Software Inc. for work order and inventory software, and a $69,345 contract with Presence Learning for a “clinical web-based service platform” that will be used by students determined to be at-risk.
In other business, BOE members:
*Approved a contract with West Instructional Services for ACT skills and strategies professional development for teachers and ACT intensive training classes for juniors at Escambia County High, Flomaton High and W.S. Neal High. The cost — $34,850 — will be paid from a College & Career Readiness grant.
*Approved the purchase of anti-virus software from SentinelOne for $41,524.46, which will be paid with funds from a Cybersecurity grant.
*Approved the purchase from local funds of NextGen Financial Solution, NextGen Document Services and NextGen Housing, effective November 2023 through October 2024, for $54,474.
*Approved a contract with Say It Sow LLC for speech-language services at a rate of $80 per hour from October 1, 2023 through May 22, 2024. The services will be paid for from Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funds.
*Amended the cost of recently approved auto insurance with ATBE Automobile Fund to $58,116.69 due to a billing error. The original amount was $57,172.82.
*Approved registration of Escambia County schools as a public charter school authorizer.
*Approved a five-year capital plan that includes renovation and upgrade projects at all county schools and construction of a new elementary school in Flomaton.
*Approved a one-year transportation fuel bid with Southern Energy Company that calls for initial prices of $2.93 per gallon for gasoline and $3.47 per gallon for diesel.
*Approved an out-of-state trip for W.S. Neal Future Farmers of America students to attend the 96th National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind., from October 31 through November 4.
*Approved the expulsion of two Escambia County High School students for periods of up to one year each for violations of the Student Code of Conduct. Both students are already receiving educational services through the county’s alternative school or virtual school, McClung said.
*Announced the board’s October meeting will be held Thursday, October 26, in Brewton. The meeting is set to start at 4:30 p.m., following a board work session that begins at 3 p.m.
*Went into executive session to discuss a Government Entity Settlement Agreement with Altria Group and its related entities to resolve all claims against them, and to approve the execution by Board President Danny Benjamin of a Government Entity Release of All Claims.
A special board meeting was set for September 21, 10 a.m., at the Atmore Central Office. However, that meeting has been changed to Thursday, September 28, 4:30 p.m., in the Brewton Central Office. Benjamin said the meeting would be to discuss “personnel items, the (school system’s) audit and renegotiation of the superintendent’s contract.”
Following are personnel recommendations approved by the board.
The following abbreviations are used:
Escambia County Board of Education – ECBOE
A.C. Moore Pre-K School – ACMPS
Huxford Elementary School – HES
Rachel Patterson Elementary School – RPES
Escambia County Middle School – ECMS
Escambia County High School – ECHS
Flomaton Elementary School – FES
Flomaton High School – FHS
Pollard McCall Junior High School – PMJHS
W.S. Neal Elementary School – WSNES
W.S. Neal Middle School – WSNMS
W.S. Neal High School – WSNHS
Turtle Point Science Center – TPSC
Escambia County Alternative School – ECAS
Escambia Career Readiness Center – ECRC
Atmore Bus Shop – ABS
Brewton Bus Shop – BBS
1. Tina Garrett, teacher, RPES, effective June 1, 2023
1. Sarah Weaver, pre-k auxillary teacher, ACMPS, effective Sept. 15, 2023
2. Stacey Combs, 6-hour lunchroom worker, ECMS, effective Aug. 23, 2023
3. Berna Milton, special education teacher, ECMS, effective Sept. 22, 2023
4. Victoria Alanis, special education aide, FHS, effective Sept. 8, 2023
5. Pamela Wyatt, bookkeeper / secretary, WSNES, effective Sept. 29, 2023
6. Donna Avery, 6-hour lunchroom worker, WSNES, effective Sept. 1, 2023
1. James Scruggs, assistant band director, ECMS, effective Sept. 11, 2023, replacing Michael Williams
2. Wendy Presley, 6-hour lunchroom worker, ECMS, effective Sept. 15, 2023, replacing Stacy Combs
3. Chrystal Purvis, 7-hour lunchroom worker, ECMS, effective Sept. 15, 2023, replacing Lashay McCarthy
4. Aundrea Beasley, special education aide, FHS, effective Sept. 18, 2023, replacing Victoria Alanis
5. Allison Lowery, elementary teacher, WSNES, effective Oct. 2, 2023, replacing Rachel Wiggins
6. Stacy Thomas, custodian, WSNMS, effective Sept. 15, 2023, replacing Julie Byrd Carnley
7. Randall Lucas, custodian, TPSC, effective Sept. 15, 2023, replacing Linda West
8. Donna Watson, pre-school special ed teacher, Office of Special Education & Student Services effective Sept. 25, 2023, replacing Tina Garrett
1. Rachel Wiggins, from elementary teacher to math coach, WSNES, effective Oct. 2, 2023
2. Cimmaron Wilson, from office aide WSNES, to secretary / bookkeeper, WSNES, effective Oct. 2, 2023, replacing Pamela Wyatt
3 Christopher Emmons, from mechanic, ABS, to transportation shop foreman, ABS, effective Sept. 15, 2023, replacing Billy Mills
4 Sondra Fails, from 6-hour lunchroom worker, ECHS, to bus driver, ABS, effective Sept. 18, 2023, replacing Andrea Boatwright