School board weighs purchasing district vehicle

By DEMETRIUS THOMPSON,

Newton Municipal School District Superintendent Lola Bryant expressed a need to purchase a district vehicle at Thursday’s regular school board meeting.

Bryant presented a proposal for purchasing a five-passenger vehicle for $22,000 that would be used by her and other administration and faculty members for travel to conferences and other events, but the board questioned if the vehicle would be cost effective.

Bryant said the district would also use the vehicle for group trips when principals and other administrators have to travel to conferences and other required events. and would cut down on the wear and tear on her personal vehicle. The funding for the vehicle would come from the district’s 16th Section funding. The vehicle would be kept on school grounds across the week and through the weekend.

“Every district across the state has vans for their people to travel to conferences, and that’s to combat mileage that you have to incur from going to events,” Bryant said.

Board member Levera Chapman questioned if the district could buy a vehicle for a lower price or a larger vehicle that could seat more passengers. Board member Romonica Evans said that although the district would not have to pay Bryant and other administrators for mileage, the district would still have to pay for the maintenance of the vehicle.

The board voted to request that Bryant gather travel cost information for former superintendent Virginia Young from the previous school year to use as a guide to decide if buying a district vehicle would be cost effective.

Bryant also told the board about the need to update the three schools’ security systems. Bryant said the some of the security systems were not operational and that the fire alarm did not ring at the Newton Fire Department. 

“Our schools are too open and they are not well protected. We do not have the security measures in place that we need for the safety of our children, and I have a problem with that,” Bryant said.

Bryant said representatives from security company ADT came and looked at the schools to calculate an estimate. The board approved the security plan for the district.

Bryant also recognized all three principals, (Newton Elementary Principal Kay Killens, N.H. Pilate Middle School Principal Sharon Hoye and Newton High School Principal Shernise Wilson) for their efforts in improving the district’s state accountability rating to a “C”, and presented Wilson with a plaque for improving the school from a “D” to a “B” in the 2016-17 school year.

Towards the end of the meeting, Bryant also presented a PowerPoint presentation touting the district’s recent improvements and laying out her plans for future improvements, including improving overall attendance for students and graduation rates.

“While we may be happy that we have a ‘C’ and not a ‘D’, that’s not good enough for me,” Bryant said. “We have to work together to improve this, and that’s what we’re doing, and we want all students, as our mission statement says, to graduate and to be college-ready.”

Bryant also cited better teacher attendance as one of the goals for this year.

“We have a problem with teachers’ attendance. When a teacher isn’t in the classroom our students are not learning,” she said. “It does not matter how great a job the substitute does there is no substitute for a certified teacher in the classroom.”

In other business, twin Tiger football players Zachary and Zackariah Johnson were both recognized at the meeting for being chosen for all-star games this season. Zackariah was named as a defensive back in the annual Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game, while Zachary was picked for the annual Bernard Blackwell North/South All Star Game.

The board also approved plans to enter into a partnership with Newton native and Houston, Texas businessman Melvin Payne to create a scholarship for Newton High in honor of Payne’s caretaker Mary Arrington and his mother Joyce.