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Natchez schools honor top teachers, parents

NATCHEZ — While the good teachers pledge to impact children’s lives every day, public school administrators were able to definitively tell 13 teachers and parents Thursday, “You are making a difference.”

Shamekia Issac, a teacher at Morgantown Elementary School, was named the district-wide teacher of the year before the regular Natchez-Adams School Board meeting.

The following teachers also received teacher of the year plaques at their respective schools.

• West Primary School — Geraldine Brown

• Frazier Primary School — Ramona Batieste

• McLaurin Elementary School — Kenethia Doss

• Natchez High School — Bobby Holder

• Fallin Career and Technology Center — Lyvette Banks

• Central Alternative School — Velma Anderson

Before honoring parents of the year, NASD Interim Superintendent Joyce Johnson said she knows that for all parents, nothing is closer to their hearts than their children.

Elizabeth Blalock, who is president of the Frazier Primary PTA, was named parent of the year for the entire district.

The following parents were named parent of the year at their respective schools.

• West — Marilyn Woods

• McLaurin — Shameka Ware

• Morgantown — the late George Washington

• Central — MaKeisha Young

• Natchez High — Tammy Williams

NASD board president Wayne Barnett thanked the parents for entrusting their children to the district.

Johnson also gave certificates of appreciation to three executive assistants at Braden, Denise Ford, Elizabeth Person and Yvonne Singleton, for whom she said she could not have make the transition from seven years in retirement to running the district as superintendent without.

In other news from Thursday’s meeting:

• The board voted unanimously to contract with Durham School Services for school bus transportation. The $1.8 million contract with Durham, the company the district currently uses, had the lowest of three bids and was one of several companies the district contacted.

School board member Dr. Benny Wright asked Board Attorney Bruce Kuehnle if the contract with Durham was subject to change if potential school building reorganization causes the school bus routes to change.

Kuehnle said the contract is subject to payment adjustment based on route changes.

NASD Business Manager Margaret Parson said Durham charges the district for the number of bus routes a day, not by the length of the bus route. Kuehnle said the district pays for gas mileage, so any savings from the length of the routes would be a savings for the district. In addition, if reorganization of the schools results in fewer routes per day, the school will pocket those savings, too, Parson said.

Board member Thelma Newsome asked how much it would cost to contract air-conditioned busses. Parson said it would cost an extra $100,000 a year to use air conditioned busses.

Newsome said she understood the budget was tight this year but hoped that in the future the district could look into working it into the budget.

• Representatives from Smith, Shelnut and Wilson, a Madison-based investment firm, delivered a quarterly report to the board about the money the firm manages for the district.

The board signed a contract with the firm in November to invest to manage nearly $18 million in royalties — mostly from oil — earned from the district’s 16th Section land.

Alan Leach, a sales manager from the investment firm Smith, Shellnut and Wilson, said the firm has kept most of the district’s investments in five-year securities under anticipation of interest rates going up after 2014.

Smith, Shellnut and Wilson financial advisor Will Johnson said inflation is higher than what’s feasible to earn in very conservative investments in the current marketplace. But Johnson said in the long run, it makes sense to continue to invest conservatively on shorter term securities until interest rates go up. Leach added that it is very unlikely that interest rates will go down any more than they are now.