Board wrestles over document costs, adult education budget

At their monthly meeting Wednesday the Ennis School Board discussed the necessity and availability of documents and school records included in the information packets given to each member prior to meetings.

The debate seemed to center on whether or not board members were responsible for the cost of materials if they requested information not included in the monthly board packet.

Board members Lisa Frye and Gary Croy debated back and forth over the necessity of accessing documents as far back as 2009. Croy and board member Jim McNally expressed concern that requests for additional documents place an unnecessary burden on district clerk Ginger Martello.

“We need to run a school district for the benefit of the kids and the best thing for the kids so we need to spend our time for the kids,” McNally said.

Croy struggled to find a resolution to the issue.

“Obviously there is going to be some things that are outside the scope of what I need to come in the board packet,” he said. “If you need that information it’s all available here.”

However, asking school board members to physically come to the school to review documents is unreasonable, Frye said.

“What you need versus what I need may be two different things,” she said to Croy. “The point is that I can’t come here to look at the documents on a regular basis.”

“It’s my business to understand what’s going on at this school,” Frye continued. “We need to make sure we are doing things legally, and I think that’s important to the community.”

In effort to reach a compromise, McNally suggested Croy compile a list of pertinent documents to be included in the board’s monthly information packet so the board could compare this list with what Frye was requesting.

The board also carried a motion to approve adult education classes for fall session. Members of the public in attendance expressed concern over the board’s lack of discussion on the program and its budget.

This year’s school budget includes a tax of approximately $250,000 for the school district’s Adult Education Fund. In March, the school board approved a $50,000 budget for the program. That budget was meant to cover the program costs, including pay for instructors and program coordinators, for the remainder of the 2010/2011 school year and summer.

At previous meetings, Ennis superintendent Doug Walsh stated the school district may spend as much as $400,000 out of the adult education fund this year. The school district currently has about $2.7 million in their adult education fund.

Community member David Kelley, whose lawsuit against the school district over Walsh’s contracts and the allocation of tax money was recently dismissed, was frustrated with the school board’s lack of response about how the adult education funds were going to be spent.

However, the school board didn’t know exactly how this year’s adult education funds were going to be spent. They put off approving any more classes and requested that Walsh provide them with the adult education budget for the year.

In other news, local attorney Stephanie Kruer was present at the meeting to contest the resignation of school custodian Cliff McAllister.

McAllister entered a contract dated June 8, 2011 with the school district to work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m daily. McAllister signed a revised contract dated Aug. 23, but the board never approved it. Because the board must approve the hiring and firing of all employees, Kruer explained that technically the contract McAllister resigned from was not a legal contract.

The board tabled the issue until they could consult their legal counsel on the matter.

Also five staff members recently received training from the Montana Office of Professional Instruction on Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support systems as part of the Montana Behavioral Initiative.

High School principal John Sullivan also suggested bus transportation for students, staff and parents for upcoming high school sports playoffs. The minimum number of students needed to cover the cost was 25, but Sullivan said the district would incur a portion of the transportation cost as a service to the students and the community.

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