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Ava R-1 2016-17 Audit Deemed Clean; Route Owner Controversy Reappears

In a 5-2 vote, the Ava R-I School Board denied Dwain Turner the right to sell his business, Bus Route No. 7, to Tommy Scrivner.  Scrivner was approved by the board several months ago as a candidate to provide bus service.
Turner, who has served as owner/operator of Route No. 7 for 14 years, had recently reached an agreement of terms to sell his operation to Scrivner, with plans to transfer the current contract, the route and the agreement for right to service, as part of the deal.  But last Thursday, five members of the board said no, without expressing reasons why.
It has been approximately 17 months since the school district was in turmoil over bus route ownership and contract negotiations.  But, after months of contentious dialogue, the prior board approved and passed a new contract agreement on July 21, 2016, and that busing contract agreement included a Right to Service Contract. With approval of the 2016 agreement, the district accepted the return of buyout funds from those bus owners still interested in providing bus service to the district.  [Buyout funds were district monies paid to bus owners as part of the original effort to buy the routes; hence, several opted to keep the money and walk away.]
Nonetheless, the 2016 Right to Service Contract Agreement gives bus owners the right to facilitate a transfer of sale on their route as long as the potential buyer is approved by the school board.
In the meeting last week, after the board voted to deny the sale of Route No. 7, Dwain Turner openly addressed the board and rescinded his request for board approval of the deal.  Turner said he would like for Scrivner to buy his route, but after the  negative vote, the deal was off.
Turner said options available to Scrivner were not fair.  He added, if Scrivner buys the route under a three-year contract with the district, Scrivner is risking the loss of his entire investment, and that was not something he [Turner] wanted to be involved in.  Turner explained there is no security clause in the three-year contract, so when the contract runs out, the board could opt to take the route, leaving Scrivner with nothing.
In the board discussion it was also acknowledged that Attorney Tom Mickes of St. Louis, who serves as the district attorney, had been contacted and he had composed a new contract which was available for Scrivner’s consideration.  Details of the contract were not discussed in open session.
Toward the end of the discussion board member Troy Tredway posed a question asking whether or not it was unlawful for the board to deny the sale since the buyer was already approved and that was the only criteria required in the current contract.  Tredway also pointed out that Henry, Fleetwood and Stewart campaigned on the promise the busing issue was settled and their intentions were to move forward….all three had vowed the controversy was settled and over.
Tredway said “it was the intent of the original contract to allow bus route owners to sell their business, and tonight we told him [Turner] he could not sell and that is contrary to the contract the board adopted.  This buyer was approved by the board, so why did we not approve?”
Mark Henry replied it is fairer to the district and buyer to contract with the school.
The dialogue was halted when Michael Stewart interrupted with a motion to adjourn the meeting.  Henry seconded and the session concluded.
Board members voting in favor of the contract transfer and sale were Lowell Strong and Troy Tredway.
Tredway proposed the motion that recommended approval of the sale of Route No. 7 from Turner to Scrivner.  The motion cited approval of the transfer and allowed Scrivner to accept the route on the existing contract.  Board member Lowell Strong supported the motion.
Those against were Bart Ellison, Kenny Fleetwood, Vernon Johnson, Michael Stewart and Mark Henry.
Video of the discussion is on the Douglas County Herald website.
In other business, Superintendent Dr. Jason Dial reported the district is currently running $85,000 ahead of budget projections.  He advised student enrollment is up, and the district should net an additional $215,000 in January 2018 because of the increase.  In the prior year, Dial said deficit spending was $198,931, whereas now the figure is $176,064, and net reserves have increased from 19.69% to 20.02%.
Dial said the district recently was awarded a clean audit for fiscal year 2016-17 by the firm of KPM  CPA and Advisors of Springfield, and no findings were noted as the audit was deemed clean.  The firm did make the recommendation to implement a structure for separation of power; however, Dial said in a rural district like Ava, it is difficult to implement tighter standards since the office has a limited number of employees.
Dial expressed concern about the newly proposed federal tax plan and the prospect that the district will see a decrease in tax revenue.  He noted this change may bring about future funding cuts for the district.
The superintendent advised the administration office is closed for the next few weeks during the holiday break, consequently anyone interested in filing a candidacy for a board position has until January 16, at 5:00 p.m. to get their name on the ballot.
In closed, the board accepted the resignation of Allison Parrish, 7th-grade math teacher.  Parrish will remain in the position until the end of the school year. Dial also provided evaluation forms to board members as his job performance evaluation is coming up next month.
In a 7-0 vote, board members approved renewing the Flex Plan Section 125, a flexible spending plan that allows staff to pay certain health insurance premiums on a pre-tax basis.  The board also approved the Federal Program Review and  the A+ Program Review as presented by Assistant Superintendent Aaron Dalton.
In the Extra-Curricular Program Review, which was also approved 7-0, it was noted 97% of Ava R-I students participate in some type of school club or program, as student participation numbers continue to remain strong and consistent.
Connell Insurors was selected as the insurance vendor for the district’s property, casualty, liability and workman’s compensation.  Two bid offerings were received, but according to Dr. Dial, the policy submitted by Connell offered more coverage with cyber insurance and a lower premium amount, for 18 months of coverage.  MUSIC, the school’s current provider, had submitted a bid for 12 months, with  a premium of $158,000.
The board also approved the purchase of 40 new Chromebooks for the high school.  The laptops cost $6,840, and will be purchased through CDW-G.
Updating board members  on the proposed changes to the Ava Square, Mayor David Norman asked the school board for support of the project.  Norman explained the City of Ava plans to apply for a Community Development Block Grant in April, and as part of the process, the City is requesting a letter of support from the school board.
Norman explained the proposed beautification plan will eliminate 40 parking spaces from the middle drive-through sections of the square, but parking will not be an issue as additional spaces will be added to the north and south side.  Overall, only 10-16 parking spaces will be lost.  The plan includes the addition of a five-foot sidewalk around the square with handicap accessibility at all four corners, and part of the  handicap access will also lend more protection to pedestrian walkways and slow down traffic.
The board spotlight recognized Rachel Taylor for being selected as the district’s Belcher Scholarship winner.  For the local honor, Taylor was awarded $250.
Madison Curtis, an Ava band member who plays the alto clarinet, was recognized for being selected as a member of the Missouri All-State Band.  Only 109 students are chosen for the honor, and approximately 1400 students from across the state of Missouri try-out.
The school board also recognized Kayden Myers, Quincey McDonald, Bailey Bewley and Dalton Curtis for their accomplishments in sports and qualifying for all-state honors.
Board members also recognized Heart of the Hills Food Pantry for donating clothing and food baskets to students and their families during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Principal Teresa Nash announced a new student representative to the school board was recently selected by the high school student body, and Cameron Lee, a sophomore, was elected to fill the position at the board table.  Lee’s responsibilities will begin at the next board meeting which is slated for Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, at 6:30 p.m.