The Dollarway School Board voted to ask the Arkansas Department of Education for a waiver allowing the district to spend funds that normally must be spent by June 30 in the next fiscal year during a special called meeting Monday evening.

The Dollarway School Board voted to ask the Arkansas Department of Education for a waiver allowing the district to spend funds that normally must be spent by June 30 in the next fiscal year during a special called meeting Monday evening.

District superintendent Bettye Dunn-Wright informed the board that the waiver was needed because the district had failed to spend at least 85 percent of its annual National School Lunch Act funds by the end of the fiscal year on June 30 during the academic years of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.

“Under Act 1220 of 2011 a school district must spend 85 percent of the NSLA money each school year,” Dunn-Wright said. “Records show that the district spent $1.99 million with a remaining balance of $1.37 million. We must ask for a waiver from the ADE to carry it over because we had unusual circumstances and challenges the two years before I arrived and because of this the money was not spent the past two years.”

Board vice president Robert Morehead said that it would be a good idea to both ask for the waiver and to actively plan for how best to spend the money before June 30 in case the waiver is not approved.

“We will be doing that,” Dunn-Wright said. “That is our plan B.”

Board member Gene Stewart asked Dunn-Wright if the district would lose 85 percent of its NSLA funds after the end of the fiscal year if the waiver is not granted and the district is unable to spend the money in time.

“Yes, that is true,” Dunn-Wright said.

“Let’s make sure we don’t just throw money away on duplicate programs,” Stewart cautioned. “We spent a lot of money on different programs and we are still one of the lowest five percent performing districts in the state.”

Board president George Stepps expressed frustration with what he considered an unfair targeting of the school board for blame when it comes to spending funds in a timely fashion.

“The board is not sitting at the head of who is spending money and determining what it should be spent on,” Stepps said.

Morehead replied that the board should be in that role.

“We are part of the problem and not the solution,” Morehead said. “It is a fiduciary relationship.”

Stepps agreed that the board has responsibility but expressed his frustration with the need to determine how a large amount of money should be spent in the span of little more than one month.

Board member Efrem Elliott said that the superintendent and district staff should be held accountable for getting things done in a timely manner.

“I haven’t seen the board spend any money on what needs to be spent,” Elliott said. “We need to hold the superintendent accountable. We are not responsible. We should have people in place and we need to hold them accountable.”

Morehead replied that the state ultimately holds the seven members of the board responsible for steps taken by the district.

Stepps interrupted and called for a motion to ask the ADE for the NSLA funds waiver and a vote on the motion.

Accreditation problems

Dunn-Wright informed the board that the ADE determination that Dollarway High School was found to be in probationary status for the second consecutive academic year will be taken up by the State Board of Education at its June 11 meeting in Little Rock.

“We will go to Little Rock on June 11 to defend our position,” Dunn-Wright said.

Stewart asked the superintendent when she first received notice of the ADE determination for DHS.

Dunn-Wright replied that she received notice Friday afternoon, which prompted Stewart to ask her why it was that the entire school board had received notification before she had.

“Oh, I thought you were referring to the second letter,” Dunn-Wright said, referring to a letter dated May 17 from ADE standards assurance unit director Johnie Walters.

The board and the superintendent were notified by the ADE on May 1 of the probationary determination for DHS.

The board then went into executive session.

When asked for comment on the May 17 letter Friday afternoon, Dunn-Wright said that she had not yet received her copy.

Walters wrote that the school district had the right to appeal the ADE decision with a deadline of May 15, and that the district did not file an appeal.

“This school/school district was also classified as Accredited-Probationary for the 2010-11 school year,” Walters wrote. “As a result, the following school/school district may be classified as Accredited-Probationary for a second consecutive year.”

Walters writes that the State Board is required to take action if it confirms the probationary finding for DHS at its June 11 meeting, with at least one of eight possible actions to be taken.

These actions include requiring the school district to reorganize, requiring a district to close down or dissolve a particular school or schools in the district, permanently removing or suspending the superintendent or any particular board members of the district, or the annexation of a school district or parts of a district with another receiving district or districts.

The district has until Friday to submit any comments in writing related to the probationary status of DHS.

Personnel

After returning from a one hour and 20 minute executive session the board voted unanimously to approve a recommendation from Dunn-Wright to suspend Robert F. Morehead teacher Daniel Beard for five days without pay for inappropriate language toward a student.