Frustration was apparent at Monday night’s Clinton School Board meeting as one board member said he felt “bullied” and another said he was tired of dealing with matters that should never have come before the board.
Licensed Personnel Policy Committee President Burtie Harder talked about a memo sent Oct. 22 by Superintendent James McGaha that many teachers felt was meant to bully them into not taking part in the committee.
“When you say bullied,” said board member Jeff Wyborny, “I feel bullied when you come in here quoting the law and talking about hiring lawyers.”
McGaha said the memo was not meant to intimidate.
The Personnel Policy Committees asked the board to answer some questions:
• Where is the rest of the money K-6 teachers are supposed to be given for classroom purchases each year? At last month’s meeting, teachers had received only $100 of it; they have since been given $300 more. Harder said by law they are supposed to get $500, and she wanted to know where the last $100 is. Elementary Principal Hal Ward said the money is there. School Board President Kyle Hensley said teachers should work out the details with the principals.
Board member Kirk Pryor added that the board “is getting bombarded with stuff we shouldn’t have to be dealing with. Mr. Ward just said this was never brought to his attention” before it was brought to the School Board.
“I have been on the board for six years and I have never gotten a letter from the PPC. Now I have had 20 in the last month,” Pryor said. “Y’all have got to communicate.”
He said the board is buried in reams of paperwork from the PPC and the administration. “Y’all are wearing us out with stuff that shouldn’t even be coming to us.”
The PPC’s next question was:
• Will the School Board address an issue concerning housing before hiring a new superintendent? McGaha, whose retirement letter was accepted by the board Monday night, had been given the use of a district-owned house, but did not use it. The PPC wanted to know what kind of value that added to his contract and if it would be reworked.
Wyborny said the housing issue was discussed at a board meeting. “He could stay one night or seven. We had a discussion. Nobody was here, nobody’s ever here unless they’re mad.”
Next, the PPC asked if it could continue to meet once a month during school hours. After listening to input from principals, the board said no, at least for now.
Cheryl Smith, spokesman for the certified PPC, wanted to know if the board was going to rescind the $40,000-plus contract of the superintendent’s secretary.
“You were led astray,” Smith said. “You have to understand the frustration of the district secretary getting possibly the highest pay in the state and having the lowest-paid teachers.”
The board said that on the advice of its attorney, it would stand by the contract and, according to board member Darla McJunkins, learn from its mistake.
Smith said the contract was signed the same day the position was filled in April and changes were made in July and the contract is not legal.
McJunkins said the lawyers disagree and, “We’re adamant we’re not changing that contract.”
Pryor said when the contract was presented to them, it appeared to be a $20,000 savings for the district because it combined the job of secretary and fixed assets.
“There are times we make decisions without all the information,” he said. “Once we make a decision we have to live by it.”
He said he understood what the PPC was saying, but he had talked to the School Board’s attorney who said the “contract is good, you can’t change it now, but next year we can.”
McJunkins said it was time to get past the issue and move on. “We keep hashing over the same thing.”
McJunkins said the contract of secretary Cindy Freeman is not the “only one out of line.” She said the committees, principals and superintendent need to look at the contract, “make changes, make it more fair to everybody.”
The board approved two motions concerning salary schedules on the advice of their attorney to patch up what it needed to concerning the contract. The action was for auditing purposes.
The board directed the superintendent, principals and PPCs to begin work soon on next year’s salary schedules and stipends and then present them to the board.
The portion of the meeting with the PPCs ended on a better note as both sides agreed that communication was the key to working together. “The end result (of the discussions) will make us a stronger school,” Hensley said.