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Proration may cost $5 million over two years

By By James Crawford
News Editor
Proration was again the main topic at the monthly meeting of the Escambia County Board of Education, held Thursday night in Brewton.
Escambia County Superintendent of Schools Melvin "Buck" Powell informed the board that the State Department had indicated the Escambia County School System was facing upwards of a $5 million shortfall in funding for the upcoming 2003 and 2004 school year, an even worse outlook than expected.
"We've seen this coming for three years. We've dealt with proration, but the state funds are getting low and we need local citizens of Escambia to understand that we've got to do something on a local level," Powell said.
"We've done everything we could, including cutting employees over the past two years, and there'll be more cuts at the end of this year. But our teachers are upbeat and positive and we will find a way to do the best thing for Escambia County students," Powell said.
Powell proposed, and the board approved, a motion to conduct three special session public meetings, one each in Brewton, Flomaton and Atmore, in an open forum format to discuss with the public what options were available to combat the shortage in funding, including the possibility of new one-cent sales tax.
The time and location of these meetings will be announced at a later date, most probably in late January or early February of next year. "With the mess the State Department is in, we're going to have to come up with something locally, or we're going to have to do something drastic," Powell said.
In other business, the board recognized Shirley West of Flomaton, the Turtle Point Environmental Science Center Director, and her center as a Treasured Forest. Powell received a letter from the Alabama Forest Commission recognizing West's Turtle Point Center as a Treasured Forest, a recognition that goes to an organization with 10 acres or more that are used for wildlife preservation.
The board voted to approve the previous motion to adopt Escambia County Schools Support Staff Evaluation Forms and Parents Right-to-know Notices. The board also awarded two CNP equipment bids to Mobile Fixtures for $26,399 and $30,528 and a bid to Ward International for buses in the amount of $51,551 per bus. A motion to approve the new employee wage and hour policy was tabled for 30 days for board members to consider.
Board member Danny Benjamin brought to the board's attention a complaint by a concerned citizen that several members of one of the high school's basketball teams had recently driven to a basketball game in Jay via personal transportation, a violation of school board policy. Superintendent Powell agreed to look into the matter stating "No student should be traveling to any school sanctioned event in any way other than on a yellow bus."
In executive session, the board approved a number of personnel recommendations and approved the expulsion of a student from Flomaton for a period of one year.
The board will hold its next monthly meeting on Jan. 30, at W.S. Neal Middle School and will be in Atmore for its district meeting on Jan. 28.