By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The Starkville School District Board of Trustees will discuss proposed guidelines for student travel money during its regular meeting tonight at the Greensboro Center at 6 p.m.
The board requested Interim Superintendent Beth Sewell research guidelines on how the board should approve giving money to different student groups for travel, such as field trips and competitions.
“This is just a work in progress, just an update for the board. I’m going to ask them for a little more direction on how we should proceed,” Sewell said.
Traditionally, the board has paid up to one third of the total costs of a student trip if so requested, but board members wanted to make sure they were using the funds as fairly as possible. The board has a budget of $15,000 per school year to help fund student travel.
The school board will also hold two special meetings next week. On Thursday, Dec. 15, the board will meet with Mississippi School Board Association Executive Director Michael Waldrop and Search Coordinator Harold Fisher to discuss the superintendent search. MSBA has interviewed all 23 candidates for the position and has compiled a report that it will give to the board. The meeting will likely be held in executive session as the board members discuss individual applicants.
Due to the upcoming holiday season, it is unlikely that the district will be able to begin interviewing the applicants until after the new year.
“I think the logistics of the holiday would be difficult. We haven’t discussed it so the timeline we’re on is something that the board is going to have to discuss,” Board President Keith Coble said.
On Friday, Dec. 16, the board will meet with Smith Sparks, a school financial expert, who will train the board and district personnel on financial procedures. Over the last few months, board members have vowed to improve the district’s financial records and pay closer attention to the financial items they approve at each meeting.
“We’re going to talk about just general policies and guidelines that the administrators use in the schools so the board understand what’s going on in the district,” Sewell said. “Also, we’re going to talk about any audit information they might need to know. It will be a good opportunity to sit down and ask questions of an expert.”
The Starkville School District has had a number of issues with its yearly audits, causing delays and a back up in the reports going back several years. In September, the board held the exit conference with the accounting firm that handled the 2009 fiscal year audit, which was delayed due to a lack of communication between the firm and the district and understaffing in the district’s financial department. The major problems have been worked out, and the district’s audits should be back on schedule by January, when the board will hold an exit conference for both the 2010 and 2011 fiscal year audits.
During that meeting, Coble and board member Pickett Wilson each said the board had to be more accountable for the district’s finances. While the 2009 audit revealed no major issues — mainly paperwork errors — Coble said they needed a spotless financial record by the time a new superintendent took office.