New Albany schools going back to traditional outdoor graduation ceremony

Superintendent Dr. Lance Evans talks about graduation. At right is board president Barbara Washington.
April 9th, 2021     City schools

New Albany Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lance Evans submitted a brief report to trustees but it contained two bits of welcome news.

One is that COVID cases and quarantines continue to decrease. The other, perhaps less significantly but more welcome to students, is that the district plans to return to graduation ceremonies at Kitchens Field this year.

Graduation will be Friday, May 21, at the usual time. This past year, schools had to limit attendance and participation for graduates and their families to small groups.

Evans did say that the number of tickets allotted will be in accordance with state and CDC guidelines, which he said now allow 75 percent capacity.

Director of Accounting Services Suzanne Coffey said expenses and revenues continue to be in line with this year’s budget.

She added that the district is a little better thanks to the receipt of ESSER, or Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief funds.

This program is part of the CARES COVID relief package and New Albany schools already have $435,615 approved. The district will be able to use round two funds in the amount of $1,620,650 as soon as the budget is done, she said, which was expected this week.

The funds have to be spent according to guidelines concerning COVID-19 but they include learning loss and the unanticipated costs of materials to prevent and fight the pandemic, which have been substantial.

More funds are expected in round three.

A question that had been asked in relation to the funds was whether some could be used to give to teachers.

Evans said he had checked and it is “absolutely illegal” to pay teachers bonuses in Mississippi.

He added that they may be given payment for working with an extended school year or rewarded indirectly by being given a larger allotment for supplies.

Trustee Mark Garrett contended that hazard pay is not a bonus and the teachers have been in a hazardous position this past year. “We want to say you have done a good job and we appreciate it,” he said. “They are front-line workers and are risking their lives to educate out children.”

Evans said he would see if the idea of hazard pay would be permitted.

Personnel issues accounted for a large part of the agenda but Evans said the number of resignations and hirings is typical for this time of year and, in fact, resignations are down.

Trustees approved:

  • The resignation of Christy Hardy, teacher at New Albany Elementary School, effective at the end of the school year.
  • The resignation of Keri McDonough, teacher at New Albany Middle School, effective at the end of the school year.
  • Naming April Hobson Director of the Career and Technical School, replacing Dr. Rodney Spears, who retired.
  • Naming Grant Goolsby Assistant Principal at New Albany Elementary School.
  • Hiring Laura Burkirk, teacher at New Albany Elementary School, pending MDE approval of her license.
  • Hiring Beth Rinehart, teacher at New Albany Elementary School.
  • Hiring Lynn Baker, teacher at New Albany Elementary School.
  • Hiring Mary Beth Sellers, teacher at New Albany Elementary school.
  • Hiring Jacqueline Shirley, teacher at New Albany Middle School.
  • Hiring Jessie Carman, teacher at New Albany Middle School.
  • Hiring Jennifer Cook, receptionists at New Albany Middle School.
  • Hiring Fairy Foster, teacher assistant at New Albany Middle School.
  • Hiring the certified staffs at all four city schools.

In other items, Middle School Principal Paul Henry briefly reported on efforts to improve performance. “It’s amazing to see what we’ve done to get out of TSI (Targeted School Improvement program) and be in the top tier in the state,” he said. “We’re getting better every day. Proficiency rates are getting better.” Superintendent Evans said, “He’s being very modest. They’re doing an outstanding job.”

In overall finances, Coffey said about 89 percent of the anticipated tax revenue has been received, leaving about $500,000. Five months remain and Coffey said the average per month usually is about $100,000.

Among action items, the board approved using Cunningham, CPAs, PLLC for audits for school years 2021-2023 at a cost of $17,000 each year. When trustees asked about the change in auditors and cost, Coffey replied that the state requires districts to change auditor firms every three years and the cost is what they have been paying.

Before adjourning, the board voted to go into executive session to discuss a personnel issue but Superintendent Evans said no action was taken as a result.

The next scheduled meeting of the New Albany School Board will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 3, at the New Albany High School Media Center.

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