Manila School Board members worked through a long agenda Thursday evening, accepting bids for gymnasium air conditioning project, accepting resignations, hiring new personnel, and setting a dollar amount for a proposed settlement in a pending lawsuit with former Superintendent Charolette Wagner.
The first order of business was opening and reviewing bids to air condition the gymnasium.
Superintendent Pam Castor opened sealed bids from D&L Inc. of Blytheville and Douglas Electric of Manila.
Bid choices were submitted by both companies for 40 ton and 30 ton units. Each submitted an alternate plan and price if the work is done without duct work. Douglas Electric also had a bid bond attached in the amount of $3,536.75.
The board voted unanimously to accept the lowest bid submitted by Douglas Electric for the alternate plan without the duct work in the amount of $50,342 with a 60 day completion date.
The board accepted resignations from Lisa Hargrave, fourth grade teacher, and Kenneth Hargrave, high school social studies teacher, and Jonna Thweatt, special education teacher, before going into executive session.
Following the executive session, Superintendent Castor recommended the board approve a 200 day contract for coaches Jeral Hudspeth, John Deaton and Codie Malloy. The board approved the recommendation unanimously. The board also approved a 260 day contract for Diane Wagner, junior high principal.
Beth Jolliff, elementary special education teacher, was transferred to high school special education teacher, and Pam Holden was transferred from the sixth grade to the fourth grade.
The board voted unanimously to hire Judy Shelton and Melissa Baker as teachers for pre-K through sixth grade with probational status and contingent on making satisfactory progress toward completion of an additional licensure plan if required.
LeeAnn Helms was hired as high school social studies teacher with probationary status for the 2005-06 school year.
Linda Carpenter was hired as a cafeteria worker for the 2005-06 school year with a six month contract and probationary status.
Castor said students requesting a transfer to the Manila District do not qualify under the School Choice guidelines.
"They will need to fill out forms for a board-to-board transfer at next month's meeting," Castor said.
The students are Jera, Jae and Cameron Ashabranner and Larry Reed.
Board President Rob Veach said the district had received correspondence from Paul Bloom, attorney representing the school district, concerning contact with Hunter Williams, attorney representing former Superintendent Charolette Wagner, in regard to a proposed settlement in the pending lawsuit. The proposed amount for settlement was $60,840.62.
Wagner filed a suit against the school board when her contract for the 2003-04 school year was not renewed.
Veach said he had talked to Bloom and if the board is interested in trying to settle out of court the board would need to set a dollar amount and vote on it.
"Until we do that, he can't do anything," Veach said. "If the board is interested in settling that would be our next step. We have to give him something to officially work with."
Veach said he was open to suggestions.
Board member Jackie Hill said he would like to see this behind the board before another school year begins.
"I'm still on the same position I was the last time we went to court," Hill said.
Board member Tony Crowell asked if the proposed amount is unreasonable.
"In my mind it is," Veach said.
"The best I can say is we won't settle this (lawsuit) unless we get close to the proposed amount," board member Johnny McCain said. "If we are not close, we will go to court."
McCain made a motion to offer $60,840.68 for a settlement. The motion was seconded by Hill.
"There has been damage on both sides," McCain said. "If I had the money in my pocket, I'd pull it out and pay for it myself. I don't think it is fair to Mrs. Castor or our school or the board to go through another trial. It sounds like a lot of money, but I feel personally it can't be repaired if this is not settled. It has affected our town and our school. I can't speak for you (board members Scott Misner and Tony Crowell). You were not here back then but you now have to deal with it. In my opinion it is not fair to Mrs. Castor and it is not fair to the school or our kids and I don't think it is fair to the Wagners. I am not sure a settlement will settle it but I have talked to a lot of people who want to see it settled."
Hill said, as he said at the first trial, "I think this is affecting our school kids."
"I'm not worried about Mrs. Castor, she can do her job," Hill said. "I worry about the kids."
"If she (Mrs. Castor) spends one minute a day working on this, it is one minute she could be spending on working for the students and the school," McCain said.
"I'll agree it needs to be settled and I don't want to go to court, but I can't go with that amount," Veach said. "If we settle and give people what they want, we will be sued many times."
Veach said he would be willing to go $15,000 for a proposed settlement.
"That ($15,000) is a lot in my mind for a case that I don't think we will lose," Veach said. "I think it was Donald (Master) who said at the last board meeting that the board did nothing wrong."
Crowell said some people say the board did nothing wrong and some say they did.
"Scott and I were not here," Crowell said.
Veach said you have to look at what is best for the school.
Crowell asked if the board reached an amount would it put the school in any fiscal distress.
Veach said $25,000 had been budgeted for the pending lawsuit. Mrs. Castor said the amount would not put the school in fiscal distress.
Veach pointed out that if the board came up with a dollar amount, the stipulation would have to be added that the interveners drop their case.
"If not, it (the suit) would just come back in a different form," board member Steve Metheny said.
"Sixty thousand dollars is a lot money when you haven't done anything wrong," Veach said. "You're talking two teachers salaries."
After a discussion, the motion was amended to offer a settlement in the dollar amount of $48,672.50.
The motion passed 4-3 with Metheny, Veach and Master casting the no votes and McCain, Hill, Misner and Crowell casting the yes votes.