The Manila School Board was at the five hour mark Monday night when board members came out of executive session at 11:30 p.m. and the motion to renew Superintendent Charolete Wagner's contract failed with a 5-2 vote. Wagner is in her second year as superintendent for the Manila School District.
Board member Jackie Hill made the motion to renew Wagner's contract for the coming year, seconded by board member Johnny McCain. Board President Rob Veach called for the vote that failed 5-2 with board members Allen Donner, William Davis, Steve Metheney, Don Master, and Veach voting no.
Wagner asked if she could say something.
"At some point I need to ask you about certain things concerning business. I need to ask about the grant signing off on Wednesday. (Manila was approved for a $249,000 grant through the Delta Regional Authority funds that will be used to partner with Kelton Schools, a private, career educcation school, to add specific training for high school juniors, seniors and adults.) I am the coordinator for the project and I'll have to check with Kelton's Business School to see if he wants to continue. Other things might be affected," she said.
Wagner asked the board if they had talked to any of the principals or was it a board decision.
Donner commented that it is a board decision. Veach said he made his decision as a board member on his own accord. Wagner asked each board member that voted no if he had anything to say to her and received no response.
"I've seldom seen this happen without an explanation. I've made notes on everything you have asked me to do and tried to follow through. I guess conversation is not necessary. I can look myself in the mirror in the morning and I can look you in the eyes," Wagner said
The board went back into executive session at 11:45 p.m. to discuss hiring a new superintendent. The session ended at 12:35 a.m. with no action taken.
Earlier in the meeting, Scott Beardsley, vice president of Raney & Beardsley, Inc., gave a brief overview of where Manila School District is financially.
"This is what we do. We work with schools on financials," Beardsley said.
Beardsley pointed out that the Manila School District was in compliance with the existing law.
He explained through bonds, some of the millage for indebtedness can be moved to maintenance and operation putting the Manila District closer to the upcoming requirements. Manila will be 8.50 mills short if nothing is done.
"You must have the 25 mills in place by Jan 1, 2004. The Quorum Court will have the power and be required to add the mills on maintenance and operation unless you come up with other options. You are one of the few schools that can get in compliance and be better off," Beardsley said.
He explained that a decision would need to be made by July.
"Be prepared to hear a lot tomorrow you don't like. The Supreme Court came down hard on the Department of Education and the legislators. The state will have the responsibility for providing adequate education.
"I don't know how it will end. A lot of schools will have to jump through hoops to get in compliance but the good news for you is you are close," Beardsley said.
In other business:
*The Board looked over, in great length, three bids for telephone systems placing telephones in each classroom making communications available throughout the school. Several board members commented that they would rather have an intercom system that works rather than a phone in each room.
*The board accepted the bid of $9,456 from Douglas Electric to replace the two air conditioning units in the home economics building. Members decided to hold off accepting the bids for work for the heating system in the elementary brown gymnasium until more details about the needed duct work could be examined.
*The board discussed using the baseball field at the park for the high school team and converting the school baseball field into a softball field only. Happy Grayson, high school principal, said as it stands now, the school field is better for softball play and sharing the fields could work out well for the city and the school.
*The board discussed changing policy that does not allow a student to participate in cheerleading and basketball. Most board members agreed that they did not see how it could be worked out time wise but agreed that they did not want to stand in the way if it could be worked out. They left it up to the coaches and sponsors.
*They agreed to increase the number of cheerleaders from 10 to 12 on the junior high squad and 12 to 15 on the senior high squad.
*The board voted unanimously to hire Toby Doke of Paragould as teacher for the alternative school. Doke will also serve as baseball coach with a stipend of $1,000.
*Superintendent Wagner informed the board that the Dell Power Plant had donated some very nice furniture to the school.
*Wagner mentioned long range plans and asked the board to call her with ideas.
"As it was mentioned earlier, we may need to raise our mills to keep from getting a larger increase forced on us," Wagner said.
President Veach said he did not want the school to get barely enough to survive.
"I think our town will approve what is needed to keep our school." Veach said.