, 2015

Lancaster supervisors grant
additional funding to pay
interim superintendent

by Audrey Thomasson

LANCASTER—In a special session January 9, Lancaster supervisors authorized a $59,200 supplemental appropriation to cover six months of compensation for interim school superintendent Sandy Spears.

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Supervisors debated whether the school division already had the money in its budget and whether they should lift the category spending to allow the money to come from outside the administration and health category.

Under the terms of terminating the services of the former superintendent, Dr. Daniel Lukich will be paid his salary through June 30.

School board chairman Dr. Robert Westbrook assured supervisors the schools would return to the county “every dollar unspent” from the school’s fiscal year 2013-14 budget of $14,732,395.

“There was $234,000 left unspent” in last year’s budget, said District 1 supervisor Butch Jenkins. “Granted, we tightened up the budget, but why don’t you think you have the money to cover it?”

Westbrook reminded supervisors he was a new school board member as of January 1, and new to the process. “If you give us this money, if there’s any left over, it will be included in what we give back to you,” he replied.

Westbrook said he wanted to have an audit of school finances that would point out better efficiencies and satisfy county financial experts such as Jack Larson and George Bott. “We’re really talking about trust and accountability.”

“The school system spent money at the end of the year like it was going out of style,” said District 3 superintendent Jason Bellows.

“Let’s assume that won’t happen this year,” Westbrook replied. “Now let’s assume we don’t have the money at the end of the year. We are not going to spend money we don’t have...I don’t want to be in a tight spot in bringing the kids’ scores up.”

District 4 supervisor Bill Lee asked why the “assistant superintendent John Tupponce” was not asked to take over rather than bring in someone else as interim superintendent. “He’s on the payroll. We’re concerned about administration costs.”

“I wanted new direction and I thought we needed to look through fresh eyes,” Westbrook replied. “I’m going to encourage Mr. Tupponce to apply for superintendent.”

“I’ve had about seven phone calls from teachers saying that (Sandy Spears) was the right choice (for interim superintendent) and that morale changed overnight,” said board chairman and District 5 supervisor Wally Beauchamp.

“We’ve signed (Spears) contract and we’re going to pay that whether we get the money or not,” Westbrook said. “The administration category is so top heavy the balance is off. Most of that money should go to the kids.”

“I’m comfortable with the person in place,” said Bellows, who introduced a motion to remove the categorized budget.

“I have a great deal of confidence in Spears,” said Jenkins. However, he noted the county would “get a better handle on where the money is spent” under a categorized budget.

“I’m asking that you give Mrs. Spears and myself the opportunity to show what we can do and prove you can trust us,” said Westbrook. “I sign the checks, that’s who you hold accountable.”

“I agree with Butch,” said Lee. “We put these things in place so we could look at things and see where each dollar was spent.”

“I don’t want to pull more money out of instruction,” replied Westbrook. The district’s “already pulled $44,000 out of instruction” to pay for a school nurse. “I don’t want to pull another $59,000 out of instruction in the second half of the year.”

District 2 supervisor Ernest Palin said, “I’m inclined to stay with a categorized budget and add $59,200 to the budget.”

By a 3-2 vote, supervisors rejected the motion to lift the categorized budget. Voting against the motion were Lee, Palin and Jenkins. Voting in favor were Bellows and Beauchamp.

A subsequent motion to appropriate an additional $59,200 to the school budget passed, 3-2, without discussion. Voting in favor were Lee, Palin and Beauchamp. Voting against were Jenkins and Bellows.

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