Aberdeen School Board meets with state Department of Education

By Monroe Journal

ABERDEEN — A $1.3 million decline in the Aberdeen School District’s operating funds over the course of five fiscal years was enough of a concern for officials from the Mississippi Department of Education to begin a two-week audit of the district.

“The district is spending $2,500 per student above the state average while the district is under academic watch. For geographical purposes only, the Amory and Monroe County school districts are spending $400 per student less than the state average and are both high performing districts,” said Todd Ivey, bureau manager of the office of financial services with the Mississippi Department of Education.

Four representatives from the MDE were on hand last week for a special called meeting of the Aberdeen School Board.

The school district’s accounts payable clerk, Latasha Straughter, has been working with the MDE to get a better hand on the situation of the fund balance. “If the district goes into deficit, an auditor is going to contact the state superintendent, which could lead to a financial advisor taking over and we don’t want to do that though we’re not far from it,” Ivey said.

The Aberdeen School District has adopted furlough days and refrained from using the former Aberdeen Middle School and Prairie Elementary School buildings in the past two years, which has helped save on operating expenses. While mention of conservativeships of seven other districts in Mississippi was explained to everyone in the meeting, the state department viewed its steps with the ASD as recovery.

“The seven school districts the state runs are much better than before because they don’t run on politics like who is related to each other—they’re run on what’s best for the children. The state doesn’t want to take over a district because we think locals should decide what’s best for the children,” said Dr. Larry Drawdy, assistant superintendent of education with the MDE.

While undergoing the audit, everything in the district will be examined; not just finances.

Drawdy questioned the school board members on their training at the state level; if they’d been explained the process of all business being recorded in the minutes; what power an individual member has; and the accountability of their votes.

“As we’ve met with individuals, a great concern we’ve had is that so many people want to talk about the division and whose side they’re on; there’s no side except the children’s side. We’ve got to get back on that focus,” said Paula Vanderford, director of MDE’s office of accreditation.

Drawdy mentioned that all school board meeting dates and times must be posted for the public and there’s no need for special called meetings.

“Good superintendent/school board relationships are important in a district’s success. I hope after these visits, this district will change its course of action,” Drawdy said.

According to Vanderford, the audit will close Jan. 18 and a report should be available 30 to 45 days later on the MDE Web site.

Aberdeen School Board names interim superintendent

ABERDEEN–In a unanimous vote, the Aberdeen School Board voted to appoint Bobby Eiland as interim superintendent effective immediately for the day to day operations of the district. Eiland previously served as director of operations for the Aberdeen School District.

Former superintendent Chester Leigh was dismissed in December and a public hearing is set for Leigh on Monday.

Members of the Mississippi Department of Education were on hand for Wednesday’s specially-called meeting in regards to financial concerns in the district and resolving problems in the district. Cause for concern arose from the district’s operating funds falling from $2 million to $700,000 from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2011.

The district is currently in the process of an audit that will close on Jan. 18. The findings from the audit should be available on the MDE website 30 to 45 days after the audit is complete.