Another executive session ends with no recommendation

Published 1:12 am Thursday, May 20, 2010

For the second time in as many days the Selma School Board met in executive session for more than an hour, but came out with no recommendations.

The school board voted unanimously in public Tuesday night to go into the closed-door session to discuss the good name and character of school employees. Alabama’s open meetings law allows public bodies to hold executive sessions concerning an individual’s “general reputation and character.”

The school board did not carry out any further business when it came out of the executive session, although several items regarding summer school and consideration of several contracts, including one with Volkert Construction Services for construction management for the new Selma High School project were attached to the agenda.

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The school board will take up the items at its called meeting, Wednesday, May 26, at 6 p.m. at the School of Discovery, said Austin Obasohan, superintendent of the Selma City Schools System.

The move not to take up any other agenda items took at least one school board member, J. Holland Powell of District 1, by surprise. “Wow,” he said.

Powell declined to discuss anything further after the meeting.

Obasohan said the called meeting next week would allow the school board to present options in the face of proration.

The Alabama Legislature cut funding for school support people, such as secretaries, teacher’s aides, school nurses and maintenance workers by level-funding them at prorated levels. The Legislature did not reduce funding for teaching staff.

Proration is expected to be an issue for school systems across the state again, but Gov. Bob Riley can’t declare any proration until Oct. 1 when the 2010 fiscal year begins.

Obasohan expects something to happen because Tuesday night he said, “We’ve got to make a decision. We want to do what is right for the children, period.”

He told the group gathered at Sophia P. Kingston Elementary the school system has to come up with a way to save teachers’ jobs and effectively use buildings and cope with an enrollment that continues to drop.

The Alabama Department of Education reports the Selma school system had an average daily membership of 3,964 for the school year 2007-08, the latest year for which reports are available. Average daily membership is the average number of students on attendance rolls during the first 20 days of school after Labor Day.

In 2006-07 the number was 3,934 and in 2005-06 the number was 4,023.

Next week the school board is expected to present two options at the meeting. Obasohan said the options would include ideas for some schools, including the School of Discovery, Byrd Elementary and CHAT Academy Middle School.

In February 2009 the school system’s Budget Reduction Committee explored a number of money-saving options, including housing all middle school students on one campus. Later, in April, the school board voted to close the School of Discovery at the end of the 2008-09 school term. At that time, Obasohan said all employees of the school would retain their positions at different locations within the system.

The initial plan approved by the school board considered two options: students would attend a sixth-grade wing at CHAT or students would attend whichever of the system’s eight elementary schools they lived near.

At the same time, the school board would have created the Selma Academy of Medical Sciences for grades kindergarten-through-eighth.

But in May the school board voted unanimously to keep the School of Discovery open one more year.

The school board did not publicly discuss any of the options scheduled for presentation next week. Instead, school board president Henry Hicks Sr. warned the public against making any snap assumptions about what the board would present.

“Studies are just what they say, studies,” he said.

Hicks said some changes are in the works, but the school board has many decisions to make and the school board is not attempting to micro-manage any schools.

However, Hicks left the audience with this, “If I have to vote to close a brick building to keep a teacher’s job, then I’m going to vote to close that brick building.”