LEAP scores, comment cards, and bus routes topics in LPSB meeting

By Kyle Roberts

The Lincoln Parish School Board met Tuesday night for its monthly meeting with nine of the 12 members present.

Subjects discussed ranged from bus routes to parish-wide LEAP scores to comment cards in the three-hour meeting.

Following the call to order, pledge, and approval of previous minutes, the members approved the unfinished business of contracts and compensation from the previous meeting with a majority yes vote and zero no’s.

Two new policy revisions were then brought forth by assistant superintendent John Young during new business: the first is the use of comment cards for public input on agenda items that will be voted upon with the second being to allow the use by trained individuals to administer Narcan in the event of an opioid emergency.

Both revisions will be voted on in the August meeting.

The comment card portion generated a buzz within the crowd citing fears of being silenced, while the rationale given was that over 44 of school boards in Louisiana, including the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), utilize this format for public comment.

I’ve traveled a lot around the state of visit school boards and at least sixty districts,” Robert Hammonds, serving as legal counsel for the July meeting, said. “And I’ve been over 3000 school board meetings. And I can tell you that the use of the cards is growing rapidly throughout the state. My estimate would be about 40 percent of the systems currently use them, a little bit less than half. That number grows each year because they have found them to be very effective ways of organizing your meeting and making sure that everyone who wants to speak has the opportunity to do so.

Dr. Danielle Williams of District 1 offered as a suggestion for the LPSB to utilize an online system for posting the agenda and board packets for citizens to review. Lincoln Parish School Board superintendent Ricky Durrett said they would look into that as a solution.

“It could definitely be up by Monday morning (before the monthly LPSB meeting),” Durrett said. “We can look into that. It’s not a problem.”

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury also utilizes a card system for public comment.

Chief Financial Officer Juanita Duke then presented information regarding ESSER funding that would allow for one-time compensation payments for retention and recruitment of certain employees. Full-time certified and professional staff would receive $1,200, while full-time support staff would receive $600 and part-time support staff would receive $480. Williams voiced concerns that the finance committee had not been given these numbers ahead of time. A member of the public also called for the compensation payments to be level across the board regardless of position or status.

The board voted to approve compensation payments with zero no votes.

During the reports section, Durrett also updated the plan for a diversity committee which will be headed by Reggie McLeroy, longtime Lincoln Parish resident and talented art teacher for the school system, along with Glenview principal Phaedra Blake and Ruston Elementary principal Mandy Brown.

Durrett then asked each LPSB member to recommend a member to join the group.

George Mack of District 11 asked for clarification on the type of committee being created and why no LPSB board member was part of it.

Hammonds explained that this is an ad hoc committee that will be able to make recommendations back to the board for approval and for votes.

Transportation supervisor Doc Hoefler then made a presentation about a possible change to the bus schedule in efforts to lower the amount of time children are riding the buses on school days through strategic bus stops within .2 miles of a bus-riding child’s home. The plan was formulated in conjunction with the engineering department at Louisiana Tech University.

Williams commented after Hoefler’s presentation that safety of the students getting to the bus stops was a primary concern, to which both Hoefler and Durrett agreed and would continue to evaluate.

Chief Academic Office Dana Talley then presented the current data available in regards to the “LEAP 2025” scores from this past year. The trajectories in proficiencies have been rising above pre-pandemic levels in Algebra I, English I, English II, and Biology. Geometry and US History are areas that Talley indicated would need to be bolstered moving forward.

Technology Facilitator Daryl Savage then reported on 42 students who enrolled in the Jump Start Summers program that incentivizes students to participate in dual enrollment with Delta Community College in five different programs. The students will then receive money for completion of the programs along with valuable skill sets.

The Jump Start Summer Program is entirely free of charge to students.

The LPSB members went into an executive session over a “personnel matter” which only allowed the school board members to remain in attendance for discussion.

President Joe Mitcham when publicly asked afterward said there was no action was taken nor any comment given regarding the executive session.

After returning, Durrett gave his superintendent’s report which included celebrating Krystal Guillory, Lincoln Parish teacher of blind and visually impaired students, who was awarded the Distinguished Educator of Blind Students award before adjourning for the night.

The next LPSB meeting will be set for Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.