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School Board charged with unfair labor practice

The Madison County School Board came together for their bi-monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 7 at 6 p.m. Dr. Felicia Moss, Madison County Central School's new Turnaround Leader, updated the school board on the progress of the SIG (Student Improvement Grant) application process. “This morning we were visited by our accountability team from Tallahassee,” lead Dr. Moss. “We came together to talk about the things that are already in progress; the things we have happening at a district level as far as instruction and curriculum as well as those things we have started at Central.” Moss informed the board that she, with Dr. Miles and Superintendent Brown, met with the accountability team and discussed areas which need focus. Moss stated that parent involvement would become a high priority during the SIG process. After Moss's presentation, Mayor Ina Thompson updated the board on their search to obtain new tennis courts. In the April 21 School Board meeting, Alan Androski had informed the board of the courts' disrepair. He displayed photos which showed two-inch gaps in the court and places where weeds were growing through cracks. The pictures were taken merely days after a tennis meet. Androski mentioned that the U.S. Tennis Association might supply funding if the tennis courts were open to the public. (With first priority given to the school.) Board member VeEtta Hagan suggested it should become a joint project between the County, City and School District, since it involved public access.

This discussion lead to action. At the present meeting, Mayor Thompson informed the board that, despite having been denied grant money for full-sized tennis courts, the city had been able to obtain a grant to build three 10 and under courts which would be helpful in teaching valuable skills to kids at a young age. “We can start the kids younger and get them interested in tennis,” said Thompson. The Board went on to discuss the remaining fact that the High School's tennis courts are in disrepair. Not only the tennis courts, but the track for track and field training. “I think it's on us now as a district to try to figure out ways to fund it,” said Superintendent Brown. “I think everyone is well aware the tennis court is not the only area that needs renovation. We've got a large number of students participating in track and field and our track right now is really not near where it needs to be to host an event, and it's really not all that adequate for serious track and field training.” Board member Kenny Hall added, “There are major hazards; its cracked with potholes.” Superintendent Brown mentioned that, due to a limited budget, they would have to seek to find external funding and become creative in how they can draw from what's available. Altogether, it was agreed the future of the tennis courts and track will be placed on hold until a solution becomes clear. Next, Chief Financial Officer Ray Griffin informed the board that the Insurance Committee voted to deny four retirees who are requesting to re-enroll in the district's health insurance coverage. The retirees had previously voluntarily discontinued it, transitioning to different jobs and obtaining alternate health insurance.

They will now be retiring from those jobs later in the year and have asked if they can re-enroll in the district's health insurance. “The issue we have with taking people back is they are at the age where they will increase costs for the district,” said Griffin. “The committee feels it's not fair to all members of the district . . . What we do for two we have to do for everyone. The committee recommends that the Board not allow employees to re-enter once they have dropped because of the increased premiums and costs.” The Board unanimously voted to follow the Insurance Committee's wishes and deny the requests. The next item of importance required the Board's consideration of a proposed settlement for an unfair labor charge which was filed against them. In an effort to save money, district staff granted an existing employee a $500 stipend rather than making the clerical position available to other district personnel. The collective bargaining agreement with the Madison County Education Association (union) requires that such positions be advertised and made available to all qualified district employees. This took place without the Board's knowledge. A settlement was arranged, requiring the School Board to provide public notice for 60 days acknowledging the oversight and assuring the public it will not happen again. The settlement also requires the district pay the legal fees involved. The Board voted to accept the settlement on the condition the wording be changed to “district staff,” rather than “The MCSD School Board,” due to the fact the indirect dealing was done without the board's knowledge or vote.

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