School board hears estimate of Gustav damages

Published 1:42 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Damages from Hurricane Gustav to schools within the Picayune Municipal Separate School District total more than $90,000, according to figures given to the school board at its meeting Tuesday.

District business manager Lisa Penton said the Nicholson Elementary School suffered damages to its public address system that would cost more than $26,000 to repair, and damages to the Picayune Memorial High School PA system would cost more than $61,000. The district also had approximately $4,000 in over time because of the storm, Penton said.

The business manager said she expected to be turned down by the district’s insurer for reimbursement because the amount of damages probably did not exceed the district’s deductible. However, she said he has prepared paper work to send to the Federal Emergency Management Agency after she gets the response from the insurance company.

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Penton’s estimates were given during the board consideration of approval of the State-Local Disaster Assistance Agreement with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency for Hurricane Gustav and after the board approved entering into a Public Assistance Pilot Program with FEMA for Hurricane Gustav. The board also had approved naming Penton as the district authorized agent and Superintendent Dean Shaw as the alternate agent for Hurricane Gustav.

During the short meeting attended by only three of the board’s members, the board also discussed shortfalls in federal funding for the Early Head Start program that has the district meeting some personnel costs for Early Head Start in excess of $75,000. The three members present were Ginny Dodd, Duane Wheat and Tony Smith.

Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell and Penton explained that school districts, such as Picayune’s, with Early Head Start programs generally have better pay and benefits than those managed by other agencies and that salaries and benefits for workers at Early Head Start are set in line with school district salaries. The board carried the matter into executive session to discuss further since meeting the shortfall might require reducing personnel to stay within what the federal government reimburses the district.

The board approved having Mississippi Power Co. set two light poles for the district — a 30-foot pole for $430 near the band hall at the high school to help carry a line to the football field house for bells to change classes, and a 40-foot pole for $3,500 at the soccer field to provide better lighting for fans and for security. The price at the soccer field also included the lights and all other hardware.

At the end of the meeting, board member Tony Smith gave the administration a copy of an article he had received that discussed federal grants to help school districts meet increasing fuel costs. Superintendent Dean Shaw and Harrell said the district would look into the law discussed in the article, even the district has not received any communication from the state Department of Education’s transportation section concerning the availability of such grants.

In other matters, the board:

— Approved personnel matters.

— Approved a request for an extension of the Bertie Rouse building historical grant.

— Voted to go into executive session.