Parents turn out for open houses; board adopts budget, gets transportation report

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By Carolyn Roy, Carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

There’s been a great turnout for open houses Supt. Dale Skinner said Thursday at Natchitoches Parish School Board meeting. Over 400 people attended the open houses at L.P. Vaughn. Skinner said he was glad that people were working together to get ready for school rather than getting in the way. “We anticipate this will be the best year ever and we expect scores to go up.”

Transportation director for Echo Ride, Jason Edwards, said at the committee meeting Tuesday he is finishing routing for city schools and attended the open houses to tell parents about the new routes. There will be a route map on the school board website to reinforce what buses the students will ride. A robo call will direct parents to the website. Of the 84 buses that will roll Monday, 52 will be new and the remaining will be no older than two years. Edwards said they are clean, air conditioned and have cameras. There will be seating charts for students. The maximum speed for school buses will be 55 mph, as directed by the La. Dept. of Education.

Supervisor of Finance Richard Foshee said sales tax collections were flat in July but are up 10 percent in the fiscal year. The half-cent sales tax passed in 2016 generated $2.8 million in the last fiscal year. The board adopted a consolidated budget of $69,132,812 for 2018-19. According to the budget, the board will receive $23.7 million in local revenue, $33.8 million in state revenue, $10.2 million in federal revenue and $1.3 million in other sources. It includes $32.7 million for salaries and $17.2 million for employee benefits, that combine for just over 72 percent of the total budget. The board will spend $24 million, or 35 percent of the budget, to conduct its regular programs. Some $5 million is budgeted for plant maintenance and $4.6 million for student transportation. The board will pay a stipend to Renee C. Lewis, a school nurse, who teaches a Certified Nursing Assistant course. The stipend will be retroactive for last year.

Parish President Rick Nowlin told the board that Parish Government opted into a class action suit against the federal government over Payments In-Lieu of Taxes (PILT) on federal forest lands. The school board can do so if it is eligible. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that PILT recipients, such as Parish Government and the school board, can seek to recover underpayments for 2015-17. The deadline to enter the suit is Sept. 14.

Board member Ralph Wilson wants the school board to create a class on Natchitoches history in elementary grades. He asked for a report on the curriculum for such a class at the September meeting.

Director of Personnel Linda Page said a change in the dress code for professional and support personnel adds Bluetooth technology, MP3 players and ear buds to the list of items that must be turned off, stowed away or out of sight during instructional time. The policy includes cell phones and other telecommunication devices.