School board meets in 2 closed sessions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004

[6/24/04]Two one-hour closed sessions dominated the Vicksburg Warren School District’s Board of Trustees regular meeting Wednesday night.

Minutes after calling the meeting to order, trustees voted to meet privately, citing personnel issues. The motion left about 45 people waiting outside.

Board President Jan Daigre said later the discussion included the performance of one employee, but no action was taken.

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Superintendent James Price and board attorney Jim Chaney declined comment.

In the second executive session, the board heard from one parent and took that issue under advisement, denied a request from another parent, approved making Butch Newman and John Walls assistant superintendents and approved making Debra Hullum administrative assistant.

Soon after Price first took the position a year ago, he hired Walls and Newman as administrative assistants and Hullum as special projects coordinator.

The private meetings marked the second and third in a week and a half. Last Monday, board members met privately at Kings Community Center to discuss the superintendent’s salary. Price was out of town on school business, and the board did not take action but decided not to give Price a raise.

Under state law, all meetings and discussions by school board members must be open to the public unless the discussion is limited to an exempted matter. In closing a session, trustees are required to state with specificity the topic, such as “interviewing applicants for …” as opposed to invoking the blanket term “personnel matter.” The law also requires all votes to be taken in open session or revealed in open session.

In portions of the session the public was allowed to hear, the board decided to “revisit” a new cell phone policy proposed by Price.

“I’d like to see students punished but not suspended for having cell phones,” said District 2 Trustee Zelmarine Murphy.

The new policy would remove the total ban on phones, but increase penalties for improper use. Those violating the rules could be suspended on the third violation.

“I certainly don’t want little Johnny to get off scot-free but we should work with administration for a better solution about these cell phones,” Murphy said.

The regular meeting began after a public hearing on the district’s $72 million budget for the 2004-05 school year.

After hearing from the district’s director of financial operations, Dale McClung, the floor was opened to the public. No one commented, and the board moved into its regular meeting.

The board voted two weeks ago not to raise local property taxes, but control spending within the state and federal allocations, the existing local levy and use of some reserves.

This year’s spending plan totaled $64 million for the year ending June 30. Most of the increase will fund a state-set 8 percent increase for instructional personnel.