Though summer break is in full swing for Liberty County School System students, system administrators and board of education members still are hard at work.
The board’s seven members gathered for a daylong retreat Tuesday, where they discussed a number of items ranging from soccer team fundraisers to the creation of a new personnel position.
After passing a consent agenda that included personnel recommendations and reinstating work days for high-school curriculum specialists and graduation coaches, the group turned to its discussion items.
The board revisited talks to create a position for a full-time turf grass specialist, who would maintain grounds landscaping throughout the school district. The idea, which previously has been shelved due to budget constraints, is a hot topic now because veteran groundskeeper Vera Mobley is out of work for personal reasons until July 15.
Neither she nor the board knows whether she will return to her job, and district administrators would like to be prepared in the event that she does not resume her position, Superintendent Judy Scherer said.
Currently, Mobley is the only person on staff who is certified to oversee application of certain herbicide chemicals, so the job could not be completed in her absence unless another person is hired.
Member Carol Guyett expressed reservations about creating the position due to its “hefty” pay scale, but expressed concern over the state of the district’s athletic fields. “We’re spending so much money on our fields, trying to keep them … if people don’t know what they’re doing, it can really mess it up,” she said.
The board agreed to make inquiries for a specific salary amount and will address the topic in an upcoming meeting.
The group also discussed a possible increase in the number of compensation days its members receive for their time attending board-related conferences.
Currently, board members are allotted 10 days of $128 per diem for board-related travel more than 50 miles beyond Liberty County lines, according to Jason Rogers, assistant superintendent for administrative services. The limit is a board rule and there is no state maximum.
“I asked for this item to be added to the agenda,” Chairwoman Lily Baker said. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I get called (away for business) a lot.”
Baker cited recent board-related trips to Savannah and a future trip to Jesup — both areas within the 50 mile radius — as examples that call for the additional compensation.
But since the board is keeping a watchful eye on budget items, member Marcia Anderson called for conservative judgment when making travel decisions to prevent an increase in personnel travel.
“I personally think we should set an example and cut it out,” she said. She added that the current maximum of 10 days per diem seemed to be a happy medium because it requires limiting conventions but still enables continuing education.
“In the board chair’s salary, it was built in that the chair would do more,” Carol Guyett said. She suggested Baker keep an itemized list of her travel and time spent working on board matters outside of meetings so the group can consider the additional compensation at a later date.
Board members are compensated a flat rate of $500 per month, with Baker earning an additional $210 for her chairwoman position, Rogers said in a post-meeting interview.
Anderson used the discussion as an opportunity to remind members that they are not full-time staff.
“This is not a paid position,” she said. “This is a public servant position. Really and truly, if they pay my expenses to go where I’m asked to go, that’s all I should expect.”
Member Becky Carter suggested scrutinizing the purpose of each trip to determine whether it would lead to professional development, which, she defined as “setting goals either personally or as a board and being able to achieve those goals.”
The discussion wound down with members agreeing to research the conventions they each want to attend and prepare for future action on the measure.
After lunch, Jay Wansley, associate director for academic accrediting bureau AdvancED, spoke to the board about governance issues for about two hours. Afterward, the board went into a closed executive session to discuss the final items on its agenda, the superintendent evaluation and contract and project updates for the entryway at Liberty County High School.