School board considers wood shop class

Split board approves interim superintendent Shelton with $600 car allowance

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING – Central Office Administrative Assistant Cindy Love (standing) hands out folders to each school board member prior the Thursday’s meeting. Interim Superintendent Lillian Shelton (from left), and board members Terry Johnson, Wayne McLemore, Valeria Wedley, Mark Hodge and Leon McNeal had lots of discussion during the almost two and a half hour meeting.

by Danny Wade

The Humboldt School Board met last Thursday evening and into the night. The 6:30 p.m. lasted almost two and a half hours.

After the agenda was amended at the beginning of the meeting, it received unanimous approval by all five board members. But later in the meeting, chairman Leon McNeal change one agenda item, then added a new item at the end of the meeting, totally against school policy and Robert’s Rules of Order. The board as a whole went along with the changes.

The first change, which was the amendment to the original agenda, was allowing a presentation of a potential new course offered at Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School. Don Glaze and Tracy Barrett with Tennessee Builders Education Association presented a curriculum for a wood shop program.

Glaze said the area is in crisis with skill labor and not enough qualified people to build houses or construction. Their program would partner with TCAT (Tennessee College of Applied Technology) of Jackson and would earn vocational credit toward certification.

The program is being used at Gibson County High School in Dyer.

The board made no decision to go with TBEA’s proposal but all seemed interested in having a wood shop program at the high school.

Later in the meeting, the board discussed a new teaching position for a wood shop instructor.

Board member Mark Hodge said the board hasn’t accepted the program and asked how an instructor can be hired before there is a program to teach.

Board member Valeria Wedley said she believes the search should begin. She said start the search now, they will be ahead of the ballgame. Wedley noted it would be a hard position to find.

Board member Wayne McLemore said he was good with having a wood shop program and voted to approve the position but with concerns.

Interim Superintendent Lillian Shelton told the board that they cannot move forward with the program until an instructor is hired, trained and certified.

The position was approved 4-1 with Hodge casting the lone nay vote. Hodge explained his reason for not voting, saying he is all for the program but could not vote for a blank check, meaning the final cost of the program and salary of the instructor.

The second change made after the agenda was approved was changing the interim superintendent evaluation report to simply the interim superintendent’s report.

Chairman McNeal said the state had not given the board the tool for the evaluation and it was not fair to Shelton. Instead, he wanted Shelton to give her report on the first 9-weeks of school.

Hodge understood that the board needed to know what evaluation tool to use but wanted to continue with McNeal’s original plan made when Shelton was hired to have an evaluation at 90 days.

McNeal disputed that he said 90 days and added there was no time frame of 90 day, a year or six months.

Wedley suggested the evaluation could be placed on the agenda of a later meeting.

McLemore said he would like to see the tapes of the July and August meetings to see exactly what the board agreed upon. He then asked if the interim superintendent’s evaluation could be on the December agenda.

No decision was made whether or not the evaluation would be on any upcoming board meeting agenda.
The final item discussed that was not on the agenda had to do with bills and invoices not being initialed and taken care of for three months.

McNeal said according to the state, no board member can sign any legal documentation. According to Humboldt School Board policy, it is the duty of the board chairman to initial the invoices.

Shelton said that McNeal’s statement was not 100-percent correct.

Hodge said McNeal’s comments were aimed at him because he was in the central office and offered his time. Hodge said he was asked to initial the invoices and sat there for the next hour and a half to two hours initialed a stack of papers. He gestured the stack was about eight or 10 inches tall dating back to July.

Hodge later was made aware of the board policy that he unintentionally violated. He posed the question why McNeal was not called to come initial the invoices, and if he was, why did he not do it.

McNeal asked school finance director, Teresa Paisley to explain what happened. Paisley said the auditor was there and that is why she felt comfortable.

McLemore noted that former financial director, Leanne Green, did the same thing and that he had initialed documents. Paisley said she was aware and had seen McLemore’s initial on invoices and after he was no longer vice chair, the process kept on with him signing off.

McLemore said if McNeal would have been doing his job, none of this would have happened.

Paisley, who was hired in August, said she had not contacted McNeal but was working on getting everything done. Paisley said it was her understanding that Susie Piercey, who works in the finance department, called Hodge because she needed her invoices initialed.

Hodge said if the board does not know the proper procedures, the next time he’s in the central office, if there needs to be help done, “I’m all over it.”

The schools’ bills had been paid but the invoices were incomplete, creating an issue with departments balancing their budgets.

After the meeting, Piercey said she did not call Hodge. She was upset by the allegations.

In other board action:

•The board approved giving Shelton a car allowance, although there were different opinions of how much and how to determine the amount. Shelton said when she took the interim position, she did not realize how much gas she would need, plus the additional wear and tear on her vehicle.

Wedley said she recommended a stiffen amount as reimbursement.

McLemore suggested she get the same amount for mileage as other school employees, noted others log their travels expenses.
It was noted that former superintendent, Dr. Versie Hamlett received a monthly vehicle allowance of $600 per month. Wedley said Shelton should get the same.

McNeal said that was different because Dr. Hamlett’s allowance was in her contract. There is no allowance in Shelton’s contract.

Shelton said the prior superintendent got $600, but she only asked for $300.

Hodge was concerned $300 would be enough to cover her travel expenses.

Wedley said Shelton should get the same ($600).

McNeal noted the prior interim superintendent did not get any benefits in the contract.

Hodge was still concerned if $600 would be enough. It was noted that the superintendent attends trainings and meetings in Memphis, Nashville and all across the state.

The $600 stiffen allowance was approved 3-2 with Hodge and McLemore voting against.

•Humboldt teacher and coach, Harold Miller, submitted a request to take students on a Washington D.C. field trip next summer. In the request, Miller stated the educational objective of the trip is to allow students to explore the nation’s most important sites and experience incredible learning.

The trip would take place June 2-6 with travel by motorcoach. Personal expenses for each student would be $871, which includes insurance and spending money. Parents were notified they are not required to pay the fee. Mille, along with Charlencia Taylor and Kenya Hudson would be chaperones.

McNeal asked the board to table discussion due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, to which Wedley replied, “It’s June 2021 Leon.”

McLemore said anyone with any sense would know to cancel the trip if the pandemic continues or gets worse. Miller agreed.

Wedley asked Miller how soon the trip needed be booked. Miller said he would need to get the number of students first and also noted there are payment options available.

The board approved the trip 4-1 with McNeal voting against.

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