School board sets the stage for the new year

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Board asks for more detailed information from superintendent

By Stevie Lowery

The Marion County Board of Education set the stage for 2011 during a special-called meeting Tuesday evening, Jan. 11, and its three new members didn't waste any time getting down to business.

Everything from the meeting format to the superintendent's report is going to change. At least, that's what the board wants to see happen.

Mike Cecil, who is brand new to the board, told Marion County Superintendent Donald Smith that he would like to see more detailed information from him each month regarding what he's doing in or on behalf of the school district.

"I have been to two or three meetings prior to this one right here and you have very little to say as the superintendent," Cecil said. "I'd like to see you be more engaged in this meeting and let people know what's going on in the school district... I think there is a big disconnect between what goes on here in this building and what goes on in the community."

Cecil asked Superintendent Smith to be more detailed in his report each month and include specific information about what he's doing within the district. He also wants Smith to inform the board about where he has traveled and for what purpose.

"It would give me a snapshot of what's going on," Cecil said.

Board Vice-Chairman Ed Hacker, who is also brand new to the school board, said he would like to see a quarterly report from Smith that shows the progress at each school, especially the schools that are struggling academically.

"That would go a long way to help the community see what you're doing as the superintendent... as a leader," Hacker said.

Board Chairman Michael Mullins, who previously served on the board in 2006, agreed with his fellow board members.

"The more information you can give us as a board will help us make our decisions," he said.

As chairman of the board, Mullins had a few housekeeping items to take care of himself, which included some minor and major changes.

The most notable change, which the board didn't officially vote on yet, is having legal representation at every single meeting. The school board has an attorney, Bob Chenoweth of Frankfort, but he doesn't attend the monthly meetings. Mullins said he thinks the board needs to have an attorney present at every meeting.

"It's going to be an idea that is going to cost us money," Mullins said.

However, he and the other board members verbally agreed that it was a worthwhile expense and that it was worth looking into.

"I think it's an excellent idea," Cecil said. "It's a wise, prudent move."

Mullins also suggested some other changes to the board meeting format, including starting the meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance and a short moment of silence. Mullins said students start out their school days with the Pledge of Allegiance, and so should the board.

Chairman Mullins also discussed the superintendent's evaluation, which the board is required to complete this month, according to board policy.

"I know there has been some discussion about whether or not three brand new members of the board can evaluate the superintendent effectively," Mullins said. "But, I discussed this with Mr. Smith, I believe we can."

Mullins said there are guidelines for the evaluation, which will help direct the board, and that he would like the board to move forward with the evaluation.

The other board members agreed.

"I told you Mr. Smith in private and I'll tell in public, I will evaluate you by the current goals and standards that were set for you by the previous board," Hacker said. "I think that's only fair to you. You can educate us and bring us up to speed. And we can see, together, where we need to go."

Smith's mid-year evaluation was scheduled for last night, Tuesday, Jan. 25. (See next week's edition of the Enterprise for more details.)

Salary change

Superintendent Smith made a recommendation to the board to change the salary for the position of interim principal at Marion County High School. Chris Brady currently holds the position.

When Brady was named the interim principal, the salary was decreased by $5,000. Smith recommended to the board that the salary be increased $5,000 to get it back to the level that was paid to the previous principal.

Mullins asked why it was set differently in the first place. Smith said that was because it was an interim position.

Mullins said he didn't feel comfortable with approving the salary change being that no school employee received a raise this year.

"I wonder why you're still serving in this position," Mullins said to Brady, who was sitting in the audience. "Why we haven't hired a high school principal?"

According to Cecil, by making the salary change, Brady would be getting the salary he deserves.

Board members Cecil, DeLane Pinkston, Bernard Miles, and Hacker voted in favor of the salary change. Mullins voted no. The salary change was approved.

MLK celebration donation request

Superintendent Smith asked the board if they would consider approving a donation request for the Martin Luther Kind Day celebration (which was held this past Sunday).

According to Smith, the Lebanon Human Rights Commission, which he recently joined, asked for a $100 to $250 donation for the celebration.

While board members said they supported the event, the majority of them weren't comfortable with granting the donation request.

"With other causes... What are we going to do when they ask?" Pinkston said.

Pinkston and Cecil both said they felt more comfortable making personal donations.

"Once you open that door you have to honor everybody. You can't just pick and choose," Miles said.

Mullins disagreed saying, as a board, they could decide what causes they thought were worthwhile.

"Personally, I think this would be a worthwhile contribution for this board to make," he said.

However, the board didn't approve the donation request, but Pinkston and Cecil both said they would make personal donations to the event.