Carolyn Roy | News Editor
The school board is changing the way it does business, in a technological sense, with the addition of two new communication tools. At the committee meeting Tuesday, Supt. Grant Eloi talked about Apptegy, a marketing and communication tool he said would end the frustrating robo calls. Apptegy is a smart phone app that will be used to communicate with parents. It will be supported by its own website and contain such information as grades, school lunch menus, football scores, faculty lists, board policies, weather bulletins and more. Eloi said it would be user friendly. The app should be working by Thanksgiving.
The board is already using the paperless meeting management software BoardDocs. Rather than board members getting folders with numerous paper documents, they now see documents electronically at their seats. The software is designed for phones and tablets, is cloud-based, requires no servers and is designed for small governing bodies. The documents for each meeting and committee meeting are available to the public on the Natchitoches Parish School Board website.
With the installation of the two new technologies, Eloi suggested the board have an in-house retreat to familiarize themselves with the software. There will also be discussion of district realignments and other data. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Friday, Sept. 24 and will be open to the public.
Eloi and the board were complimentary to Director of Personnel Linda Page and personnel secretary Shenita Nolley. The number of uncertified personnel has decreased by 9 percent and that number could increase to 10 percent. Page said, “People have heard about what is going on in Natchitoches, our staff, a new superintendent and our board.”
Attorney Joe Stamey spoke to two ongoing issues, donation of the Cloutierville School to Fire District #1 and the parking lot at the school bus center on Parkway. The board voted to donate the school to FD1 but contract revisions have caused several months of delay. Stamey said the fire district’s “financial people” couldn’t get approval because of the board’s requirements for the donation. Also, some of the agreements that the fire district said would provide services at the school, specifically a satellite clinic operated by Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, are not finalized.
Stamey said both sides wanted to act in good faith but cannot accomplish the original goals.
Director of Finance Lee Waskom said the school has been heavily vandalized by people riding ATVs on the gym floor. The copper wiring, security cameras and recorders have been stolen. At the Thursday meeting, the contract had been completed and was approved by the board. Stamey said he is trying to resolve issues about fencing around the parking lot at the bus center. Opposition arose from neighbors who believed the parking lot was a violation of the subdivision covenant.
There was a lengthy discussion about Waskom’s suggestion to hire a realtor for six months to compile an inventory of board properties, some of which are very small. Waskom said some could be sold and returned to the tax base. There is no current inventory of the properties. Waskom will develop a job description and the board will then decide how the realtor or property manager will be chosen.
Maintenance Supervisor Ryan Shirley said his department purchased two new trucks. When he took over this summer, there were seven employees and five trucks. The purchase was not taken to the board because policy says purchases of $30,000 or under do not have to be approved. Shirley said three of the trucks in the fleet were 1997 models. The new trucks were purchased on State contract, have GPS systems and carry the new school board logos. Board member Dorothy McGaskey voiced concerns about the fence at L.P. Vaughn saying it looked bad and had trash and tree limbs on it. Shirley said the cleanup had been contracted out since he was stung 21 times there by yellow jackets. The work stopped until the nests are removed. Bids will be advertised next week for privatizing the lawn service.
Natchitoches Jr. High received new desks for teachers and students, walk-thru metal detectors, scanning wands and a new gym floor. Work is ongoing on the dome that was damaged during Hurricane Laura.
Waskom then spoke about the damage to the schools during the hurricane totaling only $98,000. Through communications with other school systems, he learned of an independent adjuster who could possibly supply much higher damage estimates. As an example, Grant Parish damage estimates went from $3 million to $35 million. He believes a new estimate for this parish could turn out to be around $12 million with a new adjuster.