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Two asst. superintendents for BWSD
By Cassandra Favre
Feb 17, 2017, 19:44

The Bay-Waveland School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved an 18-month contract for Superintendent Vikki Landry. The board also approved the recommendation of Cheri Labat as assistant superintendent/federal programs director; and Kristen Ladner as assistant superintendent/director of special services.
At the beginning of the meeting, school board member Mike Bell requested that Jim Keith - an attorney with Adams and Reese in Jackson - and BWSD board attorney Ronnie Artigues address the legality of the superintendent's hire.
Artigues said the issue - the fact that BWSD Business Administrator Jon McCraw is Landry's brother - first arose when former superintendent Dr. Rebecca Ladner resigned last August and the board named Landry as interim superintendent.
Artigues said the board sought opinions on the matter.
Keith referenced Mississippi Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 14-039-E, "May a school superintendent's siblings be employed as a principal or counselor in the same district."
"In order to avoid any ethical violations of a family member supervising another relative that you had to put in place supervisory responsibility that was out from under your superintendent," Keith said. "She cannot supervise her brother. His responsibilities were such that he reported to your assistant superintendent, not to your superintendent. That is an issue that happens all over this state. Every, year we have employees employed in school districts where there are family members or relatives who work maybe in the same school. The way you avoid any day-to-day ethical violation is to make sure that there's no boss-subordinate relationship between those family members."
Keith said small communities, by nature, have relatives working in school systems.
"There has been no ethical violation at this point," Keith said.
Another issue can arise during contract renewal, Keith said, when superintendents have to make recommendations.
Advisory Opinion No. 17-004-E from the Mississippi Ethics Commission states, "May the sibling of a new superintendent of education be recommended for continued employment in the school district's central office?"
The brief answer from that opinion states, "No. Pursuant to Section 25-4-105(1), Miss. Code of 1972, the superintendent may not recommend a relative for continued employment and the step-aside provision set out in Section 37-9-17 does not apply to employees of the central office."
"The superintendent cannot recommend the contract of a relative that works in the central office," Keith said. "There is a step-aside provision if that person worked in a school."
Keith said the state legislature is amending that statute this year to only allow one relative of the superintendent to be recommended and that's going to be the superintendent's spouse.
Keith said there is another option for the board.
As per board policy, the board sets the positions, job and job descriptions, he said. Although the board has no say who fills those positions, the board can determine the length of an employee's contract, Keith said.
In order to avoid an ethical violation, Keith said the board has the authority to amend McCraw's contract. The only people who have to be recommended for employment this spring are those employees whose contracts are expiring this year, Keith said. McCraw's contract expires June 30, 2017, he said.
Board member Casey Favre said the ethics commission said "when an employee works under the direct supervision of his or relative, a violation of Section 25-4-105(1) is virtually inevitable."
Keith said it's virtually inevitable and it does not say "it's going to happen," as long as "you take them out of a direct supervisory position."
Keith referenced Advisory Opinion No. 14-039-E and said the person must recuse him or herself from the hiring and supervising process.
"What she has to do is remove herself from the supervisory process of her brother, and according to your board attorney and others that I have talked to, she does not supervise her brother," Keith said. "That is done by another administrator."
Favre said, "so the superintendent has no responsibility to supervise the financial operations of the school district?"
"The financial operation of the school district is totally different from the supervision of a person who handles financial matters," Keith said. "That is the supervision over that your assistant superintendent is in charge of. Who she holds accountable is the person who is supervising her brother."
Favre said the final statement of the opinion states that the ethics commission advises that one of the individuals should resign their position.
"The ethics commission is in a position to take the safest course of action so that nothing could ever occur," Keith said. "But it does not tell you that you cannot do that. You've got to make sure that she (Landry) doesn't have supervisory control over her brother. She can't evaluate him, she has no control over him or no say so, only the assistant superintendent would be able to do that."
Favre read aloud a statement from the ethics commission, "The superintendent may be responsible for approving wages, salary or reimbursement to the relative, in addition to periodically reviewing his or her job performance. The superintendent may be responsible for approving various matters related to central office staff and could possibly show preference to the relative in these day-to-day actions. Any of those actions would result in a violation of Section 25-4-105(1). Typically, a public servant can avoid violating Section 25-4-105(1) by recusing himself or herself from the matter in issue."
According to Advisory Opinion No. 17-004-E, Section 25-4-105(1), Miss. Code of 1972 reads, "No public servant shall use his official position to obtain, or attempt to obtain pecuniary benefit for himself other than that compensation provided for by law, or to obtain, or attempt to obtain, pecuniary benefit for any relative or business with which he is associated."
Keith said if the board doesn't have precautions in place and these things happen, then there would be a violation.
"This opinion doesn't say there's been an ethical violation, it says there can be," Keith said.
Artigues said he concurred, "no ethics violations have been made."
Artigues said Thursday, McCraw has reported to Kristen Ladner since August. Since Landry's promotion to assistant superintendent, McCraw reported to Kristen Ladner if former superintendent Dr. Rebecca Ladner was out of the building.
After an executive session, Bell made a motion to modify McCraw's title from licensed employee to licensed school business administrator and extend McCraw's employment contract from June 30, 2017 to June 30, 2018.
The motion was seconded by board member Mark Kidd and passed four to one; Favre voted no.
Bell made a motion to approve the contract of employment for Landry to serve as superintendent through June 30, 2018.
Kidd seconded the motion and it passed four to one; Favre voted no.
Joan Thomas made the motion to approve the personnel recommendation of Labat as assistant superintendent/federal programs director.
Kidd seconded the motion and it passed four to one; Favre voted no.
Thomas made the motion to approve the personnel recommendation of Kristen Ladner as assistant superintendent/director of special services.
Kidd seconded the motion and it passed four to one; Favre voted no.
Kidd made the motion to approve the personnel recommendation of Suzy Gilmore as the Bay-Waveland Middle School interim principal.
Thomas seconded the motion and it passed four to one; Favre voted no.
Kidd made the motion to approve the Bay-Waveland Middle School interim principal salary stipend.
Bell seconded the motion and it passed four to one; Favre voted no.
Thomas made the motion to approve the 2017-2018 school year personnel recommendation of Labat as assistant superintendent/federal programs director.
Bell seconded the motion and it passed four to one; Favre voted no.
Bell made the motion to approve the 2017-2018 school year personnel recommendation of Ladner as assistant superintendent/director of special services.
Kidd seconded the motion and it passed four to one; Favre voted no.
Landry said Thursday her contract - which is prorated for the remainder of the year - is in the amount of $125,000.
Landry said that both the special education and federal programs directors positions are federally funded.
Ladner's salary is $90,108, Landry said. Of that amount, 82 percent is paid by federal dollars and 18 percent of her salary is derived from the district, she said.
McCraw said Friday Ladner's previous salary as Special Education Director was $81,825, a difference of $8,283.
Labat's salary is $90,608, Landry said. Of that amount, 77 percent is paid by federal dollars and 23 percent of her salary is derived from the district, she said.
McCraw said Labat's previous salary as Bay-Waveland Middle School Principal was $85,337, a difference of $5,271.
Landry said her contract amount is prorated for the remainder of the year since the board named her superintendent after January.
In other action:
The board recognized several students and teachers: Jack DuPont - a second grader at Waveland Elementary - for his first place achievement in the Promote the Vote contest; Aidia Suter and Tarah Necaise, recipients of the Horatio Alger National Scholarship; Jeremy Weir, Administrator of the Year; Kelly Heitzmann, North Bay Elementary and District Teacher of the Year; Leellen Rogers, Waveland Elementary Teacher of the Year; Trina Kidd, Bay-Waveland Middle School Teacher of the Year; Stacey Pate, Bay High School Teacher of the Year; and Jodie Knight, Crossroads Learning Center Teacher of the Year. Landry also recognized school board members in observance of School Board Recognition week which is held Feb. 12-18.
The aboard approved personnel recommendations for the 2017-2018 school year: Bay High Principal Dr. Amy Coyne; North Bay Elementary Principal Jeremy Weir; Waveland Elementary Principal Steven Engle; Crossroads Learning Center Principal Bradley Ladner.
Joel Cunningham presented a synopsis of the FY 2016 audit. He said the district received an unmodified opinion meaning the financial statements provided by the district were materially correct. There no material weaknesses noted, he said.
Board member Mark Kidd asked about the possibility of getting the children - who attend Hancock County schools - living in the annexed areas of Bay St. Louis and Waveland to attend schools in the BWSD. Artigues said where children attend schools is not based on city limits but jurisdiction on boundaries of the "added territory." He said it would take an agreement between the two school boards. Artigues said the board could request a meeting with the Hancock County School Board.
The board unanimously approved a motion to accept an updated 16-17 administrative salary scale.




















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