Sparks named interim business manager for Lee schools

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

PLANTERSVILLE – One week after its long-time business manager was arrested by the State Auditor’s Office, the Lee County School Board hired an interim replacement with more than 20 years of experience.
During a regular meeting held in Plantersville, the board also clarified which employees can take home district-owned vehicles. Both moves come after last week’s arrest of Randy Thweatt, who was indicted on embezzlement charges.
Thweatt has been placed on unpaid administrative leave. He’ll be replaced by interim manager Bobbie Sparks, who will begin work on Monday. Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said he does not know how long the district will use the interim manager.
Her job will be to oversee the day-to-day financial operations, including developing the budget and making sure the bills get paid, Weeks said.
Sparks retired last June after working in school finance since 1989. She worked for the Tishomingo County and Corinth school districts and also worked with the Tishomingo County Board of Supervisors before that.
She is currently doing part-time work for Corinth Schools and consulting with Columbus Schools but said most of her time will be spent in Lee County.
“We will be reviewing the things the superintendent and board want, and I will be working with the staff,” she said.
Weeks will recommend at a future meeting for the district to hire a consultant to “take a bird’s-eye view” of the school’s business department and make sure that proper checks and balances are in place and proper purchasing procedures are being used.
The School Board also voted to restrict the number of district employees allowed to drive district-owned vehicles home to three high school principals, four district-level maintenance workers and three bus shop mechanics.
Previously, 23 employees drove district-owned vehicles home.
The other 13 cars will now be secured on campuses overnight.
Thweatt’s arrest, which included allegations of embezzling a truck from the school district, has caused some to question the district’s fleet.
Weeks said it isn’t fair to define all of the district’s employees by “what happened last week.”
“I want the public and the community to know we have a lot of good kids and a lot of good teachers in the Lee County School District,” Weeks said. “Our teachers care about their students, their schools and their community. These people are committed to doing a good job for the Lee County School District.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com