School Board Looks Ahead to New Year

by Bob Holeman 
WPSB Committee Meeting, Monday, May 22, 2023 @ 5:30 pm 

Schools are just out for summer yet the Winn Parish School Board is already looking ahead to the new school year.  Of course, the biggest change will be the switch to a four-day week, and reports at the board’s May 22 committee session showed that the Winn system will not be caught unaware.

“You don’t need to re-invent the wheel,” stated Supt. Al Simmons as he explained that principals and supervisors have researched, traveling to other parishes to personally examine and interview systems that have already gone to the four-day week.  One of the questions they posed was, “What surprised you?” and the response was “Not much because of the preparations we made.”

Winn is making those preparations.  Instructional Supervisor Marianne Little told members that a lot of information has been gathered.  “After what we’ve seen, I believe we will be able to cover everything (teaching) we need to cover in the time available.  I feel a lot better about it since we got that information.”

Simmons pointed out that it follows that “once we begin this fall, we’ll have to make some adjustments.  There’s not a single plan to follow.  Every district we studied does things a little differently.”

Members also received a short tutorial on the budget process from business manager Jennifer Vidrine who pointed out that there is not simply a single budget but perhaps 45 different budgets rolled together to keep the school district running.  The board’s primary focus is the General Fund Budget.  Ironically, though the fiscal year begins July, school starts August and the board adopts its budget September, real money figures won’t be known until the per-pupil allocation is approved by the state legislature in spring.  Those uncertainties can be resolved by budget revisions throughout the year, with a final revision at the June 5 regular meeting as the board closes out the 2022-23 School Year.

Simmons reported that the majority, perhaps 75% of the funding, is spent on salaries and related benefits.  Other costs include utilities, insurance and some maintenance not covered by other funds.  There was no good news in the area of property insurance, where the board heard the district could face a rate hike as much as 60%.  “After several bad hurricane seasons, many companies don’t want to write insurance in Louisiana, or the Gulf Coast for that matter.  It will take a couple of good (hurricane-free) years in a row before costs could come down.”