Pine Bluff School District prepares for fallout from D.C. budget impasse

Acknowledging the fiscal uncertainty created by the ongoing political stalemate in Washington, D.C., the Pine Bluff School District Board of Directors approved a pair of bids Tuesday night with the caveat that the purchases will not be made until the Congressional impasse is resolved.

As of Tuesday night, the U.S. Congress had not come up with a way to end the partial government shutdown and avoid the impending breach of the national debt limit.

District Superintendent Linda Watson said at the board’s regular monthly meeting that the separate bids for the refurbishing or replacement of band instruments at Jack Robey Junior High School and the purchase of security cameras for Pine Bluff High School were both let prior to the trouble in the nation’s capital.

“I recommend that the board approve the low bid from Musician’s Friends of $76,343.36 for upgrading and refurbishing the band instruments at Jack Robey Junior High School,” Watson said. “However, we will not purchase them at this time due to the situation in Washington.”

Watson said that Arkansas State Security, which is a member of the TIPS/TAPS state vendor endorsement agency, submitted a bid of $218,500 for the camera system, which includes 100 new cameras and microphones and their installation.

“I ask that the bid be approved but that we hold off on the purchase of the cameras until D.C. is settled,” Watson said.

In other business, Watson said that the district was taking additional steps to protect its bottom line during the current period of uncertainty.

“We are trying to make sure that we are only buying essentials at this time,” Watson said. “We are not authorizing any non-essential travel. So if you hear that a field trip was cancelled, that’s true. We will get our October reimbursement from the federal government for free and reduced meals, but we may not receive the November reimbursement. We are going to do everything we can to make sure that we remain fiscally sound during this period.”

Watson said that plans by the Pine Bluff, Watson Chapel and Dollarway school districts to create a joint alternative school will have to be shelved for this year because of funding issues.

“We were going to ask the State Board of Education to approve a charter alternative school, the Jefferson County Alternative Center, but we have developed funding issues for the first year,” Watson said to the board. “I spoke with Superintendent [Danny] Hazelwood at Watson Chapel and Superintendent [Bobby] Acklin at Dollarway and they have said that they cannot financially commit at this time. Pine Bluff can’t shoulder the financial burden alone, so we will have to wait.”

The board approved the hiring of certified personnel Bernard Adams as a teacher at Broadmoor Elementary School effective Oct. 14; Annitha Roaf as an English teacher at Jack Robey Junior High School effective Sept. 16; and Margie Townsend as a science teacher at Jack Robey effective Oct. 2.

The board approved the hiring of classified personnel Julia Ann Briggs as a custodian effective Oct. 14; Antwinette Eshmelek-Malakyah as a tutor at Belair Middle School effective Sept. 30; Wayne O’Briene Hall as a custodian effective Oct. 14; Della Horace as a secretary at Southwood Elementary School effective Oct. 16; Dontae Kennedy as a custodian effective Sept. 27; Rosalind Robinson as a paraprofessional at Southwood effective Oct. 21; and Eric Shines as a bus driver effective Sept. 16.

The board accepted the resignation of certified personnel Tammy Neal as a third grade teacher at Broadmoor Elementary School effective Oct. 4.

District Director of Business and Finance Pam Winkler presented the financial report for the month ending Sept. 30 and said that the district had a beginning balance of $10,952,336; revenue for the month of $2,756,442; total available funds of $17,904,302; expenses for the month of $4,152,360; amount available for operating of $8,668,312; and a total balance for all funds of $13,438,851.

The board approved on second reading an expense reimbursement policy laying out the guidelines for district employees and members of the board of directors who travel and attend conferences, professional development activities or other business on behalf of the district.

The board approved on second reading a new certified personnel resignation policy laying out the required procedure for doing so.

The board approved the 2013-2014 ACSIP Statement of Assurances certifying that the PBSD is in compliance with all Arkansas state laws.