‘Transparency’ Issue with Lee County School Board? 

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 BY WIL CREWS

SPORTSCREWS@OPELIKAOBSERVER.COM 

According to Lee County School Board Chief Financial Officer Ken Roberts, revenues in the school system are rising, but citizens are still wondering where that money (COVID funds in particular) is being spent.

At last week’s regularly scheduled board meeting, Roberts reported that, for the month of December (2021), the system has earned 26.2% of its projected to revenues compared to spending 24.4% of its projected expenditures. Additionally, the county is projected to grow its tax revenue by $2,046,190 in the fiscal year 2021-22, based on comparisons to data at this time in last year’s fiscal cycle.

After Roberts’ report, a community speaker questioned the board regarding the availability of the county’s federal COVID-19 funds to the public.

“I have been trying to do some research, trying to find the COVID funds that is supposed to be readily available for the community and it’s not,” said Miss Jackson, one of three community speakers to take the podium at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Jackson cited a number of issues she believed the COVID money could be spent on, including neglected work orders and the need for building maintenance in many of the county’s schools.

“It’s not just about the teachers,” she said. “It’s also about the environment. When you have air filters that are way past replacements, roof leaks that have been there, you have a huge hole in Smiths Station high school’s roof and mold everywhere … these things have got to be fixed.”

Jackson further emphasized the need for the COVID fund information to be readily available to the community through the Lee County School Board website.

“I’ve got what COVID information I could find, but I had to search other than the Lee County schools [website],” she said. “The transparency of this school board is not there.”

Jackson went on to question how often the school board officials visit the schools and if or when they engage with community concerning its desires for the system.

“We get tons of money for COVID relief. I’m not sure where our tax dollars have gone. (calls out someone for smirking). Where is the community outreach? In the financial report there is supposed to be a separate COVID fund link on the website and there is not. This needs to be transparent, this needs to be available to the community.”

The school board offered no comment once Jackson’s allotted time to speak was up.

OTHER BUSINESS:

– The board heard the December financial report from Chief School Financial Officer Ken Roberts.

– The board heard a presentation from Dr. Jason Wright on the Career Tech Appreciation Month.

– The board approved minutes from the last meeting.

– The board approved field trips for the Smiths Station Track & Field team to take overnight field trips Altoona, Georiga, Fayetteville, Georgia and Gulf Shores, Alabama, for two meets and the AHSAA Track & Field Championships; a pre-K field trip to Columbus, Georgia; and three trips for the girls and boys soccer teams to Albertville, Alabama, and Columbus, Georgia, respectively.

– The board approved a revised and updated cheerleading constitution for the county.

– The board approved human resource recommendations.

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