School board to vote on 2013-14 calendar Thursday

Published 8:37 am Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Washington Parish School Board will consider adoption of the calendar for next school year during its meeting Thursday.

Superintendent Darrell Fairburn said the proposed 2013-14 calendar is similar to the one for the current school year. Under the calendar up for vote, classes will begin Aug. 9. The main change, he said, is that the in-service days were changed around. More are scheduled for the beginning of the school year rather than once it gets into full swing.

As with the current calendar, 3 1/2 bad weather days are built in, Fairburn said. That equates to 64,980 minutes of instructional time, where 63,000 minutes is the requirement.

“We say days, but really there’s the requirement of minutes,” he said.

One change from this year’s calendar is that staff development days currently scheduled for Jan. 6-8, 2014, may be adjusted if the school system has to use any of its emergency days during the fall semester, Fairburn said. Having the students return from their holiday break earlier to make up for using the bad weather days would leave a cushion, he said.

“They’re much more difficult to make up in the spring than they are in the fall, because you’ve got testing, spring holidays, Mardi Gras holidays,” he said. “It doesn’t leave you much flexibility of making up days.”

In another matter, Director of Technology Jimmy Thigpen presented his recommendations on bids received for telecommunications services and equipment for e-rate, in the areas of network equipment, fiber links, Internet access at Franklinton Junior High, cellular phone service, basic phone service and cellular phone service. No bids were received for long distance, so he recommended the board remain with its current provider, EarthLink.

Thigpen also discussed bids for video conferencing equipment that would link the four high schools and would enable a teacher at one school to lead a class at another in an area where there is not a certified teacher. His recommendation for this service was iConvergence. The video conferencing setup would enable the teacher to communicate with his or her students at another school, he said.

“They can see each other,” he said. “They can talk to each other. The teacher can ask questions. It’s just a new way to have class.”

The board will take action regarding those bids Thursday.

Also, Lacy Burris, chief accountant and operations manager, discussed changes to funding for the LA4 program. LA4, she said, receives federal funding through TANF and CDBG grants, and there is a state-funded portion. The state, she said, did not increase or decrease funding for the program.

“They changed the amount that was funded by the three different pots of money,” she said.

The board will also vote Thursday on a $64,000 increase to the TANF grant and a $90,000 decrease to the CDBG grant. The state grant, which is included in the general fund budget, also increased by $25,000. The funding will be spent on teacher and paraprofessional salaries and benefits, Burris said.

Also up for vote will be a change to the dates of the May board meetings due to a conflict with graduation, and the renewal of the system’s preventative maintenance contract with Morgan’s Mechanical.