Lee County Board of Education Reorganizes

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Left, Rusty Courson is sworn in as the new District 2 board member. Right, Richard Brown Sr. is sworn in for the District 3 position. PHOTOS BY KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH / THE OBSERVER

BY KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH

KENDYLH@OPELIKAOBSERVER.COM

LEE COUNTY —

Probate Judge Bill English swore in the two newest members of the Lee County Board of Education at its regular meeting Nov. 29.

Both board members, elected to their positions on May 24, have extensive experience teaching in Lee County schools.

District 2 Board Member Rusty Courson fills the slot which Larry Boswell previously held. Courson taught at Smiths Station High School for more than two decades, serving as the band director for most of that time.

District 3 Board Member Richard Brown Sr. was sworn into the position previously held by George Spence. Brown taught and served as principal of Beauregard High School for a total of nearly 50 years.

“We welcome these two gentlemen and look forward to working well with each of them for the betterment of the Lee County Board of Education,” said District 5 Board Member Ralph Henderson following the ceremonies. “We’re just glad to have you guys here.”

Later, Superintendent Mac McCoy honored Spence with a commemorative plaque for his service on the school board. Boswell was unable to attend the meeting.

The board members nominated Henderson for president and District 6 Board Member Larry Patterson for vice president. Henderson was vice president before this meeting, with Boswell as president.

Following the reorganization, the board approved the following:

• Policy 5.40 concerning student attendance, absences and truancy;

• the award of a petroleum bid to W.H. Thomas Oil Inc. for a 13.5-cent profit margin per gallon on gasoline and diesel;

• the award of a roofing bid to Mid-American Roofing for Loachapoka Elementary School and Loachapoka High School totaling a little over $1.7 million;

• various out-of-state and overnight field trips for several schools; and

• various Human Resources recommendations.

“Pretty much, Lee County has gotten out of the fuel business, except for a small tank that we have at the main transportation office,” McCoy said of the petroleum bid. “It’s more difficult to get bids on such a small tank, but we are fortunate that W.H. Thomas Oil has … a service out of Auburn and they’re able to maintain a reasonable price for us per gallon of gas.”

First readings were also held for the 2023-24 school year calendar and the revised Lee County Schools Special Education Plan for Children with Disabilities. The board will vote on these items at a later meeting.

McCoy said three options for the calendar were sent out in a survey, and 550 votes have been counted so far.

As part of the Superintendent’s Report, Lee County CSFO Ken Roberts broke down the monthly financial report for September 2022, which entails a look at the school system’s budget over the last fiscal year, with a focus on the general and capital projects funds.

According to Roberts, Lee County Schools’ numbers are looking even better than last year’s, something that was already projected in certain aspects. The board spent 100.4% of the $90 million budget set for the previous fiscal year.

There was also a larger surplus this year — over $4 million compared to about $2.5 million last year, Roberts said. Both revenues and expenditures were up between 5.5 and 5.8%. “That is pretty much by design,” he said.

Projected growth of local revenues, which account for about 32% of the school system’s total revenues, came out to just over $2 million. Most of the increases come from property and sales tax. Total growth is just under 8%.

“Local revenues are very critical,” Roberts said. “… We budget conservatively. Certainly, growth has been good, and that is critical — especially in terms of making those investments in the classroom.”

Those investments include hiring more teachers and certified employees, as well as maintaining the schools. Over 60% of Lee County Schools’ expenses went to direct and indirect instruction.

Roberts said debt is also trending downward, and the school system hasn’t entered into any significant debt in the last three years.

McCoy later took time to congratulate the Smiths Station High School “Panther Spirit” Marching Band for a successful competition season. The band also auditioned and was accepted to perform for the Alabama Music Educators Association conference this year — a “huge deal,” Courson said. The band will perform in Birmingham Jan. 19, but they will also perform a free show in Columbus, Georgia, prior to that.

In public comments, the wife of previous District 7 Board Member Brian Roberson urged the board members to immerse themselves in the schools within their stewardship as her husband did.

“He was passionate,” she said. “He cared about our schools, teachers, students and parents. He cared so much that even from his hospital bed, he answered phone calls from upset parents and teachers.

“… The school where I teach is more like a family than a job. My husband knew that, and he wanted that kind of morale countywide. On more than one occasion, he said to me, ‘I’m only one voice. Unless I can get the others on board, there is nothing I can do.’”

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