Christmas break extended 3 days

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Teachers, staff to attend diversity training

By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com, 352-3618 ext 219

The school board voted Thursday to hire up to 12 tutors for kindergarten and Pre-K classes, primarily at L.P. Vaughn Elementary. The new hires will cost the board about $60,000. The part-time tutors will work 28 hours per week. At the committee meeting Thursday, Supervisor of Finance Richard Foshee said the initial proposal was to hire six tutors at a cost of $30,000. But discussion from several board members leaned toward hiring up to 12 since there is such a great need.

Director of Personnel Linda Page told the board that the reconfiguration of the grades placing the younger students at L.P. Vaughn pointed out the need for more early intervention. Supt. Dale Skinner said there were “many, many more challenges” today from the younger students and biting is common. He said early intervention is the key if the schools are to meet the students’ needs. Page said principals and administrators will be able to choose their tutors. The board approved extending the Christmas break by three days to allow teachers, staff and those employees who deal with students to attend a three-day session conducted by The Best Man Company.

Best Man Company LLC is an academic and social achievement and performance company that specializes in providing educational resources, counseling, consulting services and professional development training for school staff. After the training, consultants will return periodically to assure that employees are adhering to the training. Board members described the training as cultural diversity training. The founder of the company is Dr. Jesse W. Jackson III who wrote, “Don’t Kick Them Out: Why Black & Latino Students Get Suspended So Frequently & 7 Steps To Address Negative Behavior And Avoid Suspensions.” Skinner said he didn’t know how some students attended school at all because of their dysfunctional home life.

“It will train us to better work with problem students and meet their needs,” Skinner said. Letters were sent to parents explaining the need to extend the holiday break so employees could attend the training Jan. 7-9 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Skinner said he didn’t like the idea of extending the holiday break but felt it would best serve the students who were already out rather than closing schools later in the year. The board will pay for the training with federal funds. Foshee said the attorneys advised him that the board can spend the tax money left in the Cloutierville account at other schools as it chooses.

The only stipulation is that the board must keep enough money in the school fund to maintain the building. Some $431,000 remains in the account following the closure of the school. Of the students who left the Cloutierville school, 36.6 percent, or 86 students, went to Provencal and 63.4 percent went to city schools.

Provencal board member Russ Danzy said he expects to meet with that school’s administration to discuss expansion at the school since it is at capacity. The meeting will be to discuss where to put additional rooms. Even with the completion of a new wing last year, Danzy said the rooms were full.

The board will likely call for the renewal of the tax when it expires in 2019 since the money is needed for the schools that received the students when the school closed. The board will pay its attorneys more since the firm has asked for an increase from $100 an hour to $150 an hour. The fee has not been increased since 1999. Skinner said the board would try to consolidate its calls to the attorneys in light of the increase. The firm is Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice LLP. Foshee said there is a possibility that the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) may have money available for the school board. FEMA paid 75 percent of school claims in the flood of 2016 with the school board paying 25 percent. The HUD money would pay back part of the 25 percent match.

“According to the information in the file FEMA paid us $246,616 for flood damage related expenses which was 75 percent of the expense,” he said. Foshee expects to have bids for demolition of the old magnet school building on the NSU campus in January.