Taylor and Sons Financial Services Representative, Scott Walker presented a special engraved “Employee of the Month” award Monday at the Union Parish School Board meeting to Paula Knight, Custodian at Union Parish High School. Knight was nominated by her Supervisor, Ike Lipscomb, Maintenance Manager. “She is constantly called upon to do things that are certainly not in her job description. She is a thoughtful, caring person who doesn’t mind going beyond her job requirements to keep the school looking clean, said Lipscomb. “Her dedication, dependability, and hard work are just a few of the reasons she should be honored. She always has a smile on her face and a kind word for everyone she meets.” Knight is the Employee of the Month for the month of November.

The Board made an official proclamation honoring the accomplishments of Union Parish High School senior football player, Trey Holly who passed the Louisiana career rushing record of 8,704 yards and ended the regular season with 9,936 yards. They also issued an official proclamation honoring Coach Joe Spatafora, Assistant Coaches and members of the Union Parish High School Football Team for their successful season by winning nine out of 10 regular season games.

New Union Parish High School Principal, Nicholas McConnell, presented school data and goals for the school year. “Consistency is going to be the main thing for me as Principal of Union Parish High School,” said McConnell, “We must remain consistent in everything that we do; from the way we administer academics to discipline to the way we administer our expectations to our students.” McConnell spoke to his plan to improve Union Parish High School and assessment scores. “Our assessments say we are an F school. We must work to improve that. Our kids are not Fs, our teachers are not Fs. We are not Fs,” he said, “We all play a vital role in our students’ progression. We must work together to move our students forward.”

During the Superintendent’s Report, Union Parish Schools Superintendent, Kristy Fine spoke about the failure of the tax renewal. “We were hopeful this go round,” said Fine, “we had a great deal of positive feedback going in and when the count came in, we were pretty disheartened.” Fine gave a report about the next steps for the school system moving forward. The tax rolls off the books on December 31, so the taxes being collected now will be the last time the 15 mils are collected for the school system. “July first will be when we really have to make some hard core adjustments to our budget,” said Fine, “between now and then I think it is very important for us to go ahead and start making some decisions about how to make adjustments for lost revenue.” Some areas considered for cutting costs are transportation costs with possible drop off and pick up points, class sizes might change, and auditors will be coming in to help look at areas where costs will have to be trimmed. The loss of this tax also affects MFP funding which will result in more loss of funding for Union Parish Schools. There is a chance that the tax could be put back on the ballot in April. “Since this could be considered an emergency because of our budget situation, it is highly likely that we could get the tax vote on that ballot,” said Fine. “I take full responsibility for not getting more information out to the community like we should have,” said Fine.

The board granted permission to adopt a Resolution amending the Deed Without Warranty for the sale of certain real estate to DownsvilleCommunity Charter School, Inc No bids were received on the Union Parish School Board property of 2.0248 acres near Lillie, Louisiana after advertising for the second time. The Board approved a motion to advertise the property for the third time. The property is appraised at $3,000, so the minimum bid must equal 80%, which is $2,400 plus the cost of the appraisal which was $550 for a total of $2,950. The property is described as follows: 2.0248 acre tract lying in the SE Corner of NE ¼ of SE ¼ Sec 5, T22 N, Range 3 West described as follows: Commencing at SE Corner running West 70 yds, North 140 yds, East 70 yds, South 140 yds, to Starting Point. This property is rectangle shape being 210 feet by 420 feet. Bids will be accepted at the Union Parish School Board office until 2 PM, Tuesday, December 13, 2022.

The Board granted permission for an increase in travel reimbursement rates based on the Louisiana State Employees Travel Regulations. Tier I, II, and III meals lodging rates have changed. Breakfast will increase from $12 to $16, lunch will increase from $16 to $17 and dinner will increase from $29 to $31. These changes were effective November 15, 2022.

Approval was granted to take bids for a fivecamera surveillance system to replace the outdated surveillance system currently used, which was recently approved by the Transportation Committee. The cost of this project would be covered with ESSER funds. ESSER Funds are the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund created by the federal government’s economic stimulus response bills to assist schools with COVID relief.

The Board also granted approval to issue the November supplement checks for certified and non-certified employees on Friday, November 18, 2022. Certified employees will receive $3,180 and non-certified employees will receive $1,590.

A Resolution was adopted approving the sale of 2.0248 acres near Truxno to Zachary Holt Alford for $3,100 and to authorize Shannon J. Barkley, President to execute a Deed Without Warranty and any other documents which may be necessary for the purpose of the transfer.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, once again, several parents requested time to express concern about the state of the education system in Union Parish. Jasmine Howell, Sheila Dixon and Janet Gatson all spoke about their concerns that the Union Parish School System is failing the children of Union Parish. “I am upset because if our kids are struggling in the classroom, parents need to be notified,” said Howell. “The fact that we are an F school is shameful and we are upset,” said Gatson. “We as a community are trying to get more parents involved. We are coming. Our kids are smart in Union and our education system is embarrassing,” she said. “We need the tax and we can help you get the renewal,” continued Gatson, “but cuts should not start in the classroom.” Many parents, school staff, and concerned community members applauded Gatson, Dixon and Howell.

The board and parents agreed to meet and move forward with plans to improve the education system in Union Parish.

The next regular school board meeting will be December 12 at 6 p.m.

Nicholas McConnell

Union Parish High School Principal