Manila Principals contracts renewed

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Manila School Board members approved student transfer, renewed principals' contracts, and discussed a proposed settlement on a pending lawsuit at the regular February meeting.

Following the approval of the minutes and the review of financial reports, the board went into executive session to discuss the renewal of principals' contracts.

All principal contracts were renewed for the 2005-06 year. Principals are Diane Baugher, elementary; Diane Wagner, junior high; and Pam Chipman, high school.

The board voted to approve the transfer of Tyler Harrison from Buffalo Island Central to Manila.

During the administrative reports, Superintendent Pam Castor distributed a list of revisions submitted in reference to the facility study report on the district. She pointed out several errors contained in the original assessment report.

"The Head Start building was listed as part of the school and the building should be taken off the list," Castor said. "The building does belong to the district, but the Head Start has been maintaining it."

She also pointed out the buildings were assessed by the original cost and year of construction. For example, the awnings were dated with the 1960 building. The new roofs were not taken into consideration. Another example used was the Snider Library which was built in 1948. Improvements through the years were not listed on the original report. "We should be getting a corrected report soon," Castor said.

School Board President Rob Veach discussed a letter from former Superintendent Charolette Wagner's attorney, Hunter Williams, with a proposed out of court settlement on a pending lawsuit.

The lawsuit stemmed from the board not renewing Wagner's contract in January 2003. Wagner's attorney filed for and was granted an injunction to keep the board from replacing Wagner until the matter could be settled in court. Several months later the injunction was overturned by the Arkansas Supreme Court, and Wagner was relieved of duties in March 2004.

Veach said terms of the proposal include the district declare Wagner's employment through June 30, 2004, pay the salary from the time she left until June 30 ($18,982); with all taxes and benefits, litigation fees and lawyer fees. Veach estimated the total amount over $63,000.

Veach said he had talked to Paul Bloom, attorney for the school district.

"We can send another proposal or accept this one," Veach said. "Bloom's advice was to do nothing unless the interveners agreed to drop their lawsuit. He also advised that we should only agree to a dollar figure."

Veach asked if the board would like to make a counter offer.

Discussion was opened and several board members expressed their opinions.

Board member Jackie Hill said he was tired of seeing it (the lawsuit).

"I think we need to do everything we can to get this behind us," Hill said. "As you already know, I don't think it was handled properly."

Veach said he felt the opposite to Hill.

"I don't think we did anything wrong," Veach said. "I'm not opposed to offering an out-of-court settlement."

Newest board member Tony Crowell asked if the settlement money would come from the district.

Veach said the insurance may chip in some, but he couldn't speak for the insurance company. Veach pointed out that the school's attorney would not cost the district because the deductible had been met.

"If we do agree on a settlement, we may have to go outside of the insurance company," Veach said.

Board member Scott Misner said he didn't have a problem settling.

"This has been going on for awhile," Misner said.

"I don't think I can say it is okay for our school to spend $60,000 when I was not here," Crowell said. "I still don't know what happened."

Veach said, "The board doesn't have to do anything. We can wait and go to court."

Board member Donald Master expressed his opinion that the board made a decision and it was legal.

"I can't see spending school district money," Master said.

"I think they owe us money," board member Steve Metheny said. "We have shown we didn't do anything wrong. I'm not for giving a dime."

"I hate to spend money, but I would like to see the district get this behind us," board member Johnny McCain said.

Master said he thought the proposal was unreasonable.

"I know this has been hard on the district but the board made a decision and I think the school district is getting better," Master said.

Board member Hill made a proposal to cut the settlement amount in half ($33,000) and see if that would be accepted.

His motion failed for lack of second.

The board took no action but agreed that they would like to talk to the school's attorney before making a decision. Veach said he would contact Bloom to see if he is available to attend the March meeting.

In other business:

*McCain asked where the progress is on air conditioning for the gymnasium and a school marquee. Castor said she is waiting on a response from Terry Cooper, architect for the project. He is reviewing what it will take to install air conditioning into the current system. Castor said she has a quote for the marquee. She is waiting to incorporate the cost of the sign into the overall facility improvement list.

*During the financial review, board members questioned how much the pay telephone near the high school office is used. The district is charged $75 a month. Superintendent Castor and Principal Chipman said the telephone was not used a lot. Chipman said students are allowed to use the office telephone when needed. Castor said she would ask the company if the phone could be there as a public service.

*Castor also pointed out during the financial review the gas cost was up $3,467 more than this time last year due to the freezing weather over the Christmas holidays.

*Castor also reported that things were in order for the Regional basketball tournament to be held at Manila.

*She also praised Manila seventh grade student Jared Burks for winning third place in the Mississippi County Spelling Bee.

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