By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
POPLARVILLE — On Monday, the school board for the Poplarville Special Municipal Separate School District gave Petal architect Lewis Griffin the green light to proceed with acquiring bids for a proposed new high school baseball field house, a project that has been under discussion since August. And Gary Wayne Malley, who has taught school and worked as a school administrator here for 40 years, submitted his resignation, saying he will retire at the end of this school year. He currently is high school principal. The school board, voting unanimously for the field house project, set a $90,000 project budget, and Griffin said it could be over or under that figure by about 10 percent. The structure will be substantial, intended to last and serve the needs of the athletic program for 30-to-40 years, said Griffin. Both Supt. Carl Merritt and board member Tommy Strahan have told board members that they wanted something that would last and in the long-run save the board money. Griffin told the board that they don’t have to accept any of the bids, and can revise and rebid the project if they are not satisfied with the bids they receive. School officials are hoping to get favorable bids, but officials also pointed to rising fuel prices that might impact the project’s cost. The board looked at trimming the field house square footage to save money but discarded that idea when baseball coaches told the board they needed as much room as possible. School officials had hoped to have the project up and perhaps finished by the start of baseball season but that seems unlikely now. Officials moved to build the new field house after coaches told the board that there were health and safety issues, caused by drainage problems, at the old field house. The board, although it had not planned for any major construction projects this year, said it had no other choice but to go forward with the project, and members said they wanted a substantial structure that would last for a long time so they would not have to revisit the issue in a few years. Merritt said the district has the funds for the project in a capital improvements account. Malley’s retirement request was included in the routine resignations by the board and several board members expressed regret over Malley’s retirement and the fact that the school system would lose him. He attended the board meeting and received a round of applause. He attended Poplarville school system for 11 years, then graduated, went to college and returned to teach in the system for 40 years, mostly as a U.S. history and economics teacher and later served as an administrator, 18 yeas as an assistant high school principal. Currently, he is principal of the high school. Malley also was, since the early 1970s, the statistician for the Hornet football team. His retirement becomes official on June 28. The board also recognized the teachers of the year: Stacy Kellar at Lower Elementary, Anna Anthony at the Upper Elementary, Marie Davis at the Middle School and Miguel Ramirez at the High School. Ramirez was named the overall district teacher of the year, and his name will be sent to Jackson for entry in the state teacher of the year competition. Ramirez’ mother was also in attendance and was introduced to the school board. From Puerto Rico, she is visiting her son in Poplarville. On other matters, the school board: — Recognized, with certificates of appreciation, Glenda Malley in federal programs, and district finance director Samantha Sandifer, for their work in their respective fields. — Heard an in-depth report from Marlene Cole, career center director, on the RCU Advocating Career and Tech Education program. — Heard Sandifer say, during a report on the audited financial statements for fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, that the school district received an “unqualified opinion” from state auditors, which means the financial books are in excellent shape. Sandifer said the district has a low indebtedness, is sound financially and fund balances are strong. Merritt told the board that Sandifer’s books are impeccable. — Approved the district homeless plan. — Approved a copy machine service contract. — Approved the district resignations and recommendations, and gave Merritt the go-ahead on filling the position of high school principal. — Approved advertisement for bids on hunting and fishing leases for Section 16-3-16. — Approved negotiations of farm-residential leases in Section 16-2-14. — Approved the consent agenda including special services travel contract, acceptance of out-of-district students, acceptance of donations, return of equipment to inventory, disposal of equipment, and approval of claim docket, payroll, financial statement, activity fund receipts, and minutes of the Jan. 14 and Jan. 23 board meetings. — Swore in board member and vice president of the board Samuel Gentry, who was again appointed by the board of supervisors to another term on the board. All five members on the board are appointed: Three by supervisors and two by the Poplarville board of aldermen. — Went into an executive session to discuss personnel. — Adjourned to March 11 at 6 p.m.