by Brian Lamar, Assignment Editor

During the Long Beach School District School Board Meeting on March 9, the agenda was varied, but a permeating theme through the meeting was fiscal stewardship.

One of the largest expenditures other than payroll for the Long Beach School District is energy costs. Throughout the year, the district pays more than $300,000 just to keep the lights on and the A/C humming.

According to a report presented to the board by a company previously contracted to find areas of improvement, the school district is now saving more than one-third of their usual light bill.

Throughout the district, all the windows and doors were replaced, which is resulting in long-term savings for HVAC energy. The new doors and windows were sealed far better than previous hardware and helped the current HVAC systems run more efficiently with less leakage and better weatherization.

This effort, combined with lighting and thermostat controls that allowed for better scheduling of energy consumption, also increased usage performance efficiency and lowered cost performance. The largest differences in the upgrades were noticed at Long Beach Middle School, Quarles and Reeves Elementaries.

These upgrades were credited with the 42 percent energy usage reduction district-wide and tallied with a 35 percent spending decrease, which is the equivalent energy consumption of 171 homes per year.

The School board is also looking into future plans to harness the benefits of better technology upgrades to continue the downward trend in energy consumptions and costs. The school district is also working with Mississippi Power to earn rebates toward future upgrades and tune-ups for facilities.

In another stroke of fiscal stewardship, the board also is interested in revitalizing grant writing efforts to capitalize on additional funds that are becoming available.

In a more administrative move, the board approved the effort to review and redefine the 2021-2022 school district handbooks. These handbooks act as a guide to the school district policies and doctrine. They are a guide to assist parents and educators alike.

In an effort to not recreate the wheel, the school board and district staff have assembled a small library of handbooks from other districts like, Biloxi, Gulfport, Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis-Waveland, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula-Gautier, Picayune, Harrison County, Hancock County, Jackson County, and Stone County in order to pull items that fit best within our current district’s needs.

The following handbooks are presented for review and will be presented for adoption at the next regular meeting:

2021-2022 Elementary School Student/Parent Handbook; 2021-2022 Secondary Schools Student/Parent Handbook; 2021-2022 Alternative School Student/Parent Handbook; 2021-2022 Student-Athlete Handbook; 2021-2022 Employee Handbook; 2021-2022 Athletic Department (Coaches) Handbook

The board also began approvals for advertising bids to help find a suitable company to take on the multiple hurricane Zeta repairs to facilities and structures throughout the district. The usual tedious process of finding the right company for the job is added with the sticky situation of having to work with FEMA to mitigate and lessen the financial burden on what the district has to pick up.

Also during the board meeting, the superintendent recommended adopting a new 2021-2022 district employee cafeteria pay schedule. With the new pay schedule, cafeteria and other employees will now be paid at an hourly rate so they can be eligible for overtime pay when needed.

New district faculty and personnel were voted in for hiring. The names are Naomi Rutledge, Jacqueline Johnson, John McCreary, Bethany Scott, Azaria Hill, Allison Meleones and Brandy Zink. Teacher, Rhonda Johnson was also approved for a resignation.

Toward the end of the meeting, COVID numbers were read in rapid-fire succession. The entire district is reporting extremely low numbers of COVID-related quarantines, cases, or other interruptions to education. In light of the news, the school board announced that at this time, no changes to current covid policies are needed, which include strict mask-wearing, no field trips and severely limiting guests in schools.