–staff reporter Nora Drenner
In a split vote, the Natchitoches Parish School Board has given the nod to once again allow board members to travel out of state for conferences and other meetings deemed crucial to their leadership role in overseeing the academic, legal, and financial needs of the school district. Such action took place during their regular meeting on March 5.
Discussion regarding out-of-state travel ensued at the request of district two board member Tan’Keia Palmer who expressed interest in attending the upcoming National School Board Association (NSBA) conference held in Chicago this year.
The annual conference typically draws some 7,000 school board members, superintendents and education leaders from across the country and around the globe to gain knowledge in leadership, advocacy, learning technology, urban school challenges and safe schools among other topics.
During discussion it was noted the Southern Region Leadership Conference often referred to as the Tri-State Conference as it is a collaboration between Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana might be a better fit. This year the Tri-State conference takes place in Arkansas.
Palmer said she preferred the Tri-State option held in July but would still need approval to attend.
Due to budget restraints the board had previously elected to suspend their out-of-state travel. Board president Billy Benefield commented he would like to look at the budget before committing to putting it back on the table.
District 6 board members Reba Phelps expressed concern about allowing board members to go out of state when the district’s teachers had to pay up front for conferences and then wait for reimbursement after the fact.
District 11 board member Emile Metoyer made the motion and Palmer seconded to allow out of state conference travel for any and all board members who would want to attend. Via a 9-2 vote the motion passed. Benefield and Phelps were the naysayers.
Board members wishing to attend any such conference will announce their intent beforehand to get the number of attendees and to allow time to look at the budget and get final approval.
Additionally, the board gave the nod to sign a resolution to partner with the U.S. Census Bureau. The census, which commences as ear y as this month, said the census representative in attendance, drives the federal dollars the school district and other government entities receive statewide and locally.
She noted census numbers affect Head Start, WIC, Title One, and free and reduced lunch program among others.
The census counts all persons living in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories.
Additionally, said the representative, the census bureau is looking for an additional 200 folks to work as census takers in Natchitoches. Pay is $17 an hour plus $.58 cents a mile for travel reimbursement. Those 18 and older interested in a temporary part time job can apply online at https://2020census.gov/en/jobs.html.
In other business, the board APPROVED:
— a resolution to the state requesting funding to repair Natchitoches Parish roads.
–a resolution opposing a state central sale tax collection.
–reviewing the current transportation reporting plan.
–reviewing the current facilities and use policy.
–expanding dual enrollment opportunities for students.
–awarding the bid for a new parking lot at the central warehouse to Regional Construction, the lowest bidder.
The board tabled establishing a policy regarding the board’s submission of information on social media such as FACEBOOK to give the board time to contact the district’s attorney for an opinion.
All board members–Rhonda Guidroz, Tan’Keia Palmer, Dorothy McGaskey, Billy Benefield, Katrina Willis, Reba Phelps, Eugene Garner, Steven Harris, Beverly Broadway, Russell Danzy and Emile Metoyer—were in attendance.