BWSD votes not to attend consolidation workshop
By Cassandra Favre
Jul 28, 2017, 19:39
The Bay-Waveland School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday voted three to two not to participate in an administrative consolidation workshop.
At the July 10 meeting, Ron Thorp 末 with the committee to study potential benefits of consolidating the county's two school district 末 presented the committee's findings.
He asked school board members to consider attending a workshop with members of the Hancock County Board of Supervisors and the Hancock County School District Board of Education to discuss "the advantages and disadvantages of an administrative consolidation for students, teachers and taxpayers."
All BWSD trustees attended Wednesday's meeting except for Mark Kidd, who attended via phone. Board attorney Ronnie Artigues also attended the meeting via phone.
Trustee Vicki Arnold said she's spoken to members in the community who are both in favor and opposed to consolidation.
"I feel like we are either appointed or elected to represent the people of the community, which are the taxpayers," she said. "I think that this needs to move forward to look into at length, get down and look into the numbers, make sure the numbers are accurate and then we can make the decision. I think if we make a decision now not to proceed is just a blind decision on personal interests."
Kidd said he is against consolidation and hasn't found one person who lives in Waveland who is for it. He said the bottom line is how "we are going to move forward to make our school district better."
"To me, it's not about the money, it's about the education of our kids in our school district," he said.
Trustee Joan Thomas said she has spoken to former students and parents in the area.
"The parents I spoke to, none of them are in favor of this consolidation," she said. "The very first person I asked is a former student who is totally for it, but then again, he has no kids in the system. But, like you say, we should pay attention to what the taxpayers want, both in public and private life, the majority of them are not for this."
Trustee Casey Favre said consolidation was a topic about 20 years ago, when he was a student.
"I do agree that consolidation is a tough feat," he said. "I don't think we are in a position now to make an informed decision to eliminate anything as an option. I personally believe that we owe it to our parents, our teachers to investigate."
Favre said that while he doesn't think there was anything in Thorp's report that was "intentionally wrong."
"There are some things that need to be discussed, picked apart and proven to me and this community why the numbers hold up and why they are what they are," Favre said.
Trustee Mike Bell said that on some scale, it could save money, but, "does it make sense? That I'm not so sure of."
He added that he is not convinced consolidation is what the people want.
"I think an independent cost-savings analysis needs to be conducted, which will cost money to do," Bell said. "There needs to be a non-binding referendum passed that tells the two school boards this is what the public wants proceeding forward. I don't feel it is incumbent of us as an entity to participate in this process."
He said if Thorp wanted to fund an independent assessment or conduct a public referendum, he said he wouldn't tell him no.
Bell suggested to the board that no further action be taken and members could take the matter up again at a later date.
Arnold said she didn't see the "useful purpose in postponing it."
Thorp told the board that 末 during such a workshop 末 supervisors and school board members could use the committee's work as a "guide," and use it "to your expertise" to see if consolidation is a feasible option.
"Nothing is required of you at that time, unless the numbers are so overwhelming that you wish to go forward with it or you wish to do some other mode to take this to the next step," he said.
Thorp also added that he has been approached by people thanking him for what he's doing and that they can't understand "why they they are not willing to just sit down and discuss this?"
Thorp said 末 as of Wednesday 末 the Hancock County School Board has not committed to a workshop.
"My goal was to have one or two people from each school board," Thorp said. "You're dealing with this every day and you have the ability to pull numbers when you want, research things. As I have stated before, the numbers we pulled either came from the financial administrators of the two school districts or off of your dockets. The analysis was made by us on the committee and we are open to other analysis because that it just what we were trying to do. Here's what we see, you are the experts, what do you see?"
Arnold made the motion to authorize two members of the school board to participate in a workshop about consolidation. Favre seconded the motion.
The motion failed three to two. Bell voted no, Favre voted yes, Thomas voted no, Arnold voted yes and Kidd voted no.
After the meeting, Thomas said the "number one reason" why people to whom she spoke were against consolidation is the loss of jobs in the community, from "top to bottom" not just those in administration.
Lana Noonan, a member of the education consolidation committee, said, "They wouldn't take advantage of the opportunity to prove us wrong."
Thorp said he was disappointed with the board's decision.
"Not for me, but for the students, teachers and taxpayers of Hancock County that may have had the opportunity to have more money in the classroom for teachers and a reduction in ad valorem taxes," Thorp said. "We will see when the timing would be proper to continue this effort. I've always said this is going to happen in the future not because of me but in spite of."