Members of the Morehouse Parish School Board voted on the positions of president and vice-president of the board for the new year at Tuesday’s regular board meeting. Nominated for president were Karen Diel, District 1 representative and Louis Melton, District 2 representative. With a vote of four for and three against, Diel became the president, but not before District 6 representative Chastity Kennedy could express her opinion that the vote showed racism still plays a part on the board.
“Yet again, this board has overlooked an African-American and [this] shows racism and no diversity of the board,” Kennedy said following a statement from District 7 Representative Rose Thompson.
Thompson, who nominated Melton said she had no problem with Diel, but thought Melton deserved a chance to be in the position of president. “I know we are outnumbered and not to play the race card, but Mr. Louis has been on the board for a while and I think he deserves to be given a chance,” Thompson said.
Melton was then nominated for vice-president along with Thompson. Melton declined to be considered and Thompson was appointed.
Superintendent Hazel Sellers announced Morehouse Magnet School as the month’s High Attendance school in both the student and facility and staff categories. She also recognized HV Adams as a Top Gains School.
An accident involving two buses carrying athletes to a football game in New Orleans was an agenda item in which Thompson expressed her disproval over the way the accident was handled.
“Protocol was not met,” Thompson said. “I have had parents calling me asking why they were not told about the accident and board members did not even know about it.”
The accident happened while on the interstate in New Orleans when one bus rear-ended another bus. It was said that the drivers did not stop due to traffic and that no injuries occurred.
“My concern is that there were football players on that bus and there wasn’t a thought of their safety,” Thompson said.
District 5 Representative Chip Rawls agreed, “If one of the players was really hurt and then played football, there could have been life-long problems.”
Thompson was also on the agenda to speak about the amount of substitute teachers.
“There are a lot of substitutes in our classrooms and kids are not functioning well under them,” Thompson said. “Kids just are not learning under subs and I want to know if there is going to be more effort made to attract more teachers.”
Personnel Director Prince Ella Williams addressed Thompson’s concerns and said that Morehouse Parish is not alone in needing qualified teachers.
“The nation is experiencing a teacher shortage,” Williams said. “We are trying to encourage and grow our own teachers and try to place substitutes who have have experience in positions of long-term subs,” Williams said. “We attend the same job fairs as the Ouachita Parish School System and Monroe City System and are in communication with coordinators at the universities. There are just not a lot of students going into education - we may talk to five education students at the fairs.”
Business Manager Ersula Downs presented the October 2017 Sales Tax Funds, General Fund and School Lunch Fund reports, all of which were approved and adopted by the board.
Williams presented for a first reading a volunteer coach/sponsor policy, which was created to insure there is a consistency in dealing with volunteer coaches. The policy will require those wanting to volunteer to fill out a request and acknowledge that they will receive no compensation for the role. Volunteers will also have to submit to a background check and drug clearance.
The Personnel Report for October was as follows:
New hires were Shelia Spender as a paraprofessional-SPED at Morehouse Junior High and Michelle Wooten, third grade teacher at Delta Junior High: One resignation was received from Michael Stone, teacher at Morehouse Junior High: retiring were Pricilla Dean, Delta Junior High teacher with 29 years, and Anita Gee, Delta Junior High paraprofessional with 28 years