Anniston’s school board president on Thursday requested that board members hold a work session to put in place a strategic plan — an effort that he said would show the public they’re working to combat problems straining the district.
“It’s time to create a new culture,” said board president Robert Houston.
The request comes two days after a joint meeting between the board and the Anniston City Council in which city leaders discovered the district was short all of its state-mandated one-month reserve fund. As late as April 2017 the district had $300,000 toward the required $1.9 million fund.
Houston said Thursday that the joint meeting should have included more discussion of what school leaders are doing to see both financial and academic gains in the district.
“We talked about all the things that was wrong with our school system and how it got there. However, we didn’t talk about anything we're doing to make it better,” he said.
Some of the board’s first meetings after taking office in 2016 included the intention to draft a strategic plan, Houston said, but the board lost sight of that goal.
“Apologies for the board's lack of ability to sustain focus to make our schools better. We have not done that, because our job is to help the school prosper when all is said and done,” Houston said.
Asked on Thursday what factors contributed to the drop in the reserve fund, Anniston City Schools chief financial officer Jimmie Thompson said it’s been no one thing. But a couple of the primary factors, he said, are years of declining enrollment and lack of state funding for transportation. Thompson said the demands of transportation required the district to use $400,000 in local money to bridge the gap in state and federal funding.
Thompson said those problems persist even though the district for the last two years has followed a state-approved plan to grow the fund.
In other business, the board:
— Approved a budget amendment that would carry over more than $500,000 for federal programs into the next budget.
Board member Joan Frazier asked Thompson if the board could use the district’s federal teacher training money toward more teachers to reduce class sizes.
“I think we're going to have some areas that we will need additional teachers,” she said.
Thompson said the money could be used in such a fashion. Frazier asked if school leaders are having conversations about using the money for that and more professional development.
Both Thompson and Superintendent Darren Douthitt said they had talked with the district’s director of federal programs about such options.
Frazier said that the rest of the carryover amounts in the budget amendment looked good because almost all the funds in the accounts were used.
— Heard that enrollment on the seventh day of school was 1,928. That’s compared to 1,997 the same time last year.
— Approved use of the high school football field for the East Alabama Gators youth football league.
— Approved a lease agreement with the Crawford Clinic.
— Approved use of the high school auditorium for a play put on by 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church.
— Approved athletic and non-athletic supplements for the 2018-2019 school year. Board member Becky Brown asked that the board look at organizations that aren’t receiving funds to see if the board could offer some of those groups some kind of supplement. Board members also asked for a written description of the expectations of each coach or department head receiving the supplements.