School board discusses rehiring crossing guards

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 10, 2008

NATCHEZ — At Thursday’s meeting of the Natchez-Adams County School Board, board members discussed their legal options in rehiring two crossing guards that were dismissed on Oct. 1.

But it was not the school district that dismissed the guards.

The decision to dismiss the two guards, posted at Morgantown Elementary School, was made by the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

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“After discussion and deliberation, the Board of Supervisors has determined that the employment of the school crossing guards should be the responsibility of the Natchez-Adams County School District,” Henry Watts, board president, said in a letter addressed to the district’s superintendent.

The letter goes on to say that the guards will no longer be employed by the county as of Oct. 1.

District Superintendent Anthony Morris said the news came as a surprise to him.

“We weren’t expecting that,” Morris said.

And while the county’s letter calls for the district to employ the guards, the district is not legally allowed to do so.

School board attorney Bruce Kuehnle said a recent opinion issued by the state’s attorney general would prohibit the district from hiring employees to work on county roads.

While Watts could not be reached for comment, supervisor Mike Lazarus said he had no idea the district could not legally hire the crossing guards.

Lazarus said the decision to let the guards go was made during the county’s budget meetings weeks ago.

“We had to make serious cuts,” he said of the budget.

Lazarus also said since the district has a much larger budget than the county, the supervisors felt it logical that the district should pay.

Kuehnle suggested an agreement where the county would rehire the workers and the district would compensate the county for their salaries and benefits.

Kuehnle said he would be contacting the county’s attorney to discuss the matter.

However, the school’s students are not without protection.

Morris said both guards have continued to work at the school.

“They are to be commended for the dedication,” he said.

In other news, the school board briefly discussed the district’s MCT2 scores.

The test results were made public last month.

Morris said, with the exception of Robert Lewis Middle School, the schools that took the MCT2 scored at a level where they were deemed to be making adequate yearly progress by federal standards.

Kris Kaase, the Mississippi Department of Education’s Deputy Superintendent, said the schools that met the AYP standard are in line to have 100 percent of their students scoring at the proficient level by 2014.

Kaase was not at Thursday’s meeting.

Kaase also said the state accountability standards, which use a 1-5 grade scale to rank schools, is not being used this year.

The MCT2 is so much more rigorous than the traditional MCT that using the same grading scale would not be a fair assessment of a school’s performance, Kaase said.