Work causes Jones to miss BOE meetings

Published 4:46 pm Friday, July 9, 2010

While a job out of the county has kept him away from a number of Butler County Board of Education meetings in recent months, current board president Billy Jones said the situation is a temporary one.

Jones has been employed in Mobile since early 2010.

“After being laid off for 20 months, I had to do something,” Jones said during an interview following the June board meeting. “I knew this job wouldn’t be a permanent situation, as it was just a short term contract and I never did foresee it lasting,” Jones said.

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“I’ve been working as much as six and seven days a week for 12 hours a day. And you have to factor in another four hours travel time round-trip. It hasn’t been easy, but you do what you have to do for your family.”

Originally, board member Linda Hamilton took over the presidency from Joe Lisenby last fall. However, it was determined the rotation schedule for officers was not correctly followed, with Jones actually next in line to serve as president and Hamilton due to serve as vice-president.

Jones took over as board president in early 2010. Due to his work schedule, he has missed a total of five regular and special called meetings since January 27. The board convened a total of nine times between January 27 and June 10.

“I do look forward to getting back to regular attendance as soon as I can,” Jones said.

Jones is currently in his 18th year and fourth term as a BOE member. School board members, who are elected to office every six years, are paid a stipend of $600 monthly in Butler County. There is no requirement by law regarding mandatory attendance by board members at meetings.

Work sessions, which were held one hour prior to regular meetings up until February, were not eliminated because of Jones’ work schedule, said Lisenby.

Lisenby said they were established during the lengthy construction/renovation process in the county school system.

“We decided to institute the work sessions one hour prior to our regular meeting time. We discovered we were spending a lot of time during our regular board meetings with questions and concerns revolving around these projects,” Lisenby said.”This was such a long and involved process, we were ending up with some extremely long board meetings. Holding the work sessions prior to the regular meetings gave us the chance to go over any questions we had on the progress reports from the project overseers, to look over contract changes, additions and deletions. It was a help for us and the public.”

Once the construction and renovation work was completed, with related issues resolved with the contractors in early 2010, Lisenby said there was no longer a real need for a full work session scheduled before every meeting.

“Mr. (Joseph) Dean (interim superintendent) suggested we stop holding them and so we did. We certainly didn’t cease holding them for any clandestine purposes, I assure you,” Lisenby said.

“I’m sure if the situation arises in the coming school year where we need to discuss matters of great importance, we will schedule work sessions as needed. The last work session we held, which was February 18, only lasted a half an hour. So people had 30 minutes to kill before we could begin our regular meeting. The law requires us to keep meetings at the scheduled time. It’s not like we can go ahead and just start early.”

Superintendent Darren Douthitt said work sessions would return on an “as-needed” basis.

“When it is not needed, why tie people up unnecessarily? It doesn’t seem like a good use of our time. We’d be better off on a clean-up detail than sitting around in a meeting. Should the need arise, we will definitely hold a work session,” Douthitt said.

Douthitt has instituted several changes since taking over the superintendency this summer, including advance posting of the BOE meeting agendas with the media, posting of all financial records, board meeting minutes and presentations on the system’s website, and making personnel reports available to the public and the media following board meetings.

There is one more question on the public’s mind: “When will the new Greenville Middle School principal be announced?”

“There’s a not good chance that will happen next week,” Douthitt said.

The next regular BOE meeting is set for Thursday, July 15 at 7 p.m. at the Central Office Boardroom.