Picayune school district faces increased costs without competition

Published 7:00 am Friday, June 27, 2014

Insurance premiums for the Picayune Separate Municipal School District will rise next year while receiving less coverage.

During Tuesday’s meeting Finance Director Lisa Penton informed the board that their premium would be going up by $29,892, but they would receive less coverage.

Board member Frank Feeley expressed his discontent with the rising cost of insurance prices, which he attributes to a lack of competition.

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“I’m as disappointed in this insurance as anything else I’ve dealt with on this board,” said Feeley.

He said this is the second year in a row the district was railroaded into a higher premium and asked the administration to work toward receiving competitive quotes for the next fiscal year.

Penton said the administration began requesting quotes for this coming fiscal year in February, but the lengthy process did not provide cheaper quotes because they were dealing with too many insurance agents. Penton suggested working with fewer insurance agents in the future.

Feeley asked why the board is faced with a more expensive and less comprehensive insurance package if the process was started months ago.

“I mean we’re stuck here with no choice again,” Feeley said.

Penton said part of the problem was that Zurick underwriters increased the school district’s valuations, blocking other insurance agents from providing more competitive quotes.

Superintendent Dean Shaw said he and the staff are also displeased with the current insurance agent who did not provide spreadsheets, forcing his staff to invest two days to create them.

Penton said funding to cover the premium increase was included in the budget outlined at a previous meeting.

Before making a motion on the matter Feeley said, “We gotta have insurance, unfortunately they know that.”

The student cell phone policy was also covered at the meeting.

junior high principal James Williams said if the cell phone is turned off or on silent and not seen by the teachers they don’t take them from students. Cell phones are not to be used during school hours, which is from 7:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

“If we don’t know it’s there we don’t have a problem with it,” Williams said.

Shaw said the policy carried out at the junior high applies district wide.

If, for some reason, a cell phone does ring in the classroom but the exact location is unknown then the phones found in the possession of all students in that area would be confiscated. Williams said this is the policy because school personnel do not search the phones to see which one rang, which ensures student privacy.

Shaw said this policy is a change from a previous one, and so far has had few problems.