Education

Bibb school board mulls change in its numbers

New Bibb schools interim superintendent Kelley Castlin-Gacutan is sworn in on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2014.
New Bibb schools interim superintendent Kelley Castlin-Gacutan is sworn in on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2014. The Telegraph

The Bibb County school board Thursday discussed changing its makeup of eight members to an unspecified odd number but took no formal action.

Board members Jason Downey and Lester Miller wanted to trim the number of board seats, but board member Wanda West said she would like to see a nine-member school board, which would mirror the size of the Macon-Bibb County Commission.

Downey, however, said state law prevents school boards from having more than seven members. The Bibb County Board of Education was grandfathered in to allow eight members.

Downey made a motion to take action on the item but withdrew his motion late in the meeting, and no vote was taken. Board member Ella Carter was absent for medical reasons.

Also Thursday, the school board heard a presentation on the fiscal 2014 audit, which was deemed clean by a local accounting firm.

“We did our single audit, and I am pleased to tell you there were no findings,” said Miller Edwards, a certified public accountant. “We also only have five management points ... which are recommendations for improvement. I don’t think any of them are things that are newsworthy, for lack of a better word.”

The crowd gathered for Thursday night’s meeting, which included longtime educators, cheered when learning of the clean audit.

Just a year ago, things weren’t so rosy.

A 2013 audit of the school system by Edwards revealed former Superintendent Romain Dallemand spent more than $20 million on contracts for technology equipment and services without board approval or competitive bids.

In another matter, Randy Howard, the school system’s attorney, presented the board with a list of nine local law firms he recommended for approval to represent the district in some legal matters. Board members Tom Hudson, West and Thelma Dillard supported passing Howard’s list, but Downey, Miller, Lynn Farmer and departing interim Superintendent Steve Smith had issues with it.

When asked by board member Susan Sipe what Smith thought about the list, he said, “I would never consider this.”

Hudson said he wanted to include more minority workers in school system business and that they should be getting a “piece of the pie rather than crumbs.”

Farmer, in her last meeting as a board member, said, “My job is to protect the system. It’s to hire the best people in the best area of law. I want the best attorney I can put in the courtroom to protect the courtroom in this system, (and) I think taxpayers expect me to do that. ... (Race) to me, doesn’t fit in the picture.”

After lengthy discussion, the board voted 4-3 to table the issue.

Also Thursday, new interim Superintendent Kelley Castlin-Gacutan was sworn in by Magistrate Judge William C. Randall.

New board member Daryl Morton was sworn in to take the seat of Farmer, a 12-year board member. West also was sworn in after her re-election.

In other matters, the board approved:

A seven-year contractual agreement for $4.5 million with Tyler Technologies for an Enterprise Resource Planning system, which includes software to update finance, human resources and other asset systems.

The purchase of 20 new propane-fueled, air-conditioned Blue Bird school buses from Yancey Bus Sales. Fourteen of the buses are conventional, and six have a wheelchair lift. The school system will get rid of 20 older buses to reduce the average age of all of its buses.

Funds to purchase property at 1780 Anthony Road, the site of the Promise Center, and also for new bleachers and flooring in the gym at Weaver Middle School.

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