School board pays off WCCS

Published 7:33 pm Saturday, September 15, 2012

When the Superintendent for Selma City Schools was handed an invoice for $19,656 for tuition in January, Gerald Shirley did not make a move.

Wallace Community College of Selma president James Mitchell sent Shirley the invoice for tuition for the spring 2012 semester of seniors in the Selma Early College program. Thursday  the board voted unanimously with those present that the school system pay the invoice of $19,656 to cover the tuition. But in previous board meetings, some board members argued the legality of paying Wallace the money.

“Our role as a board is to educate kids K-12,” board member Frank Chestnut said about why the board was hesitant to pay the invoice in prior meetings. “Anytime you step out of that realm, and pay for someone to go to college, that is overstepping the role.”

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But Chestnut said that after research, the board found they would not incur any penalties for paying the invoice for college tuition and the board found the funds, leftover from grants, to pay it off.

“What [Shirley] was concerned about was if he had the authority to pay the invoice, and with him really being new [as superintendent], he was not really familiar with the initial memorandums of agreement,” school system attorney Katy Campbell said. “The school district, at that time, was not able to find any signed memorandums of agreement for the program.”

She said after further research, the school system found the original memorandums of agreement, in which the system agreed to be resourceful in finding funding for the expenses of the students. Additionally, Campbell said, the board was able to locate funds to cover this invoice. These funds tdid not come out the general fund, but were instead funds that came from grant money intended for the Selma Early College program.

“I think once the superintendent was satisfied that it was a legitimate expense that he could pay, based on the memorandums of understanding and based on monies actually being available from other sources — yes, I think he was justified in making the decision to make the recommendation to the board,” Campbell said.

Chestnut said that in board meetings, the members felt it in the best interest of the students to, “exhaust every avenue possible,” to pay the tuition.

Though the invoice from Wallace Community College has been paid by the school system, the Selma Early College Program finished its last semester in the spring of this year.

Because no additional funds were available for the program, the program now ceases to exist.