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Bessemer City School System facing intervention by State Department of Education

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Alabama’s Department of Education has issued a stark warning to the Bessemer City School System over “several issues of major concern,” stating that they may intervene in the system’s day-to-day operations if the problems can’t be solved.During a recent review of the Bessemer City School System, several issues that “impede the success of student outcomes and overall district operations” were brought to light, according to a document (Request to Show Cause) sent to the school system by the State Department of Education.These concerns include:Board GovernanceThe Department of Education alleges that between January and June of 2024, six meetings of the School Board were canceled due to “losing or lack of a quorum,” meaning that the minimum number of board members could not attend or were not in attendance.The Department of Education said the cancellation of these meetings “erodes public trust,” led to “critical issues’ going unaddressed” and “suggests that the Board is dysfunctional and ineffective in adequately addressing the needs of the system and its students.”FinancialsAlthough the deadline was Sept. 15, 2023, the Board did not approve a budget and capital plan until Oct. 23, 2023.The Board did not approve the FY 2022 Audit Report until December of 2023.The Board did not approve the lowest cleaning service bid, opting to use another service at “an elevated cost to the district, possibly violating the State bid law.”Bessemer City High School did not have a full-time financial secretary from the beginning of the 2023 school year until Feb. 1, 2024.PersonnelThe Department of Education alleges that “the Board repeatedly failed to fill critical administrative and teacher positions in a timely matter.”Several employment contracts were reportedly presented to the Board on Sept. 19, 2023 but were then removed from the agenda and not approved for another eight months.The Board also allegedly hired two principals but failed to approve their contracts.FacilitiesThe State noted that one significant concern is the amount of “clearly dilapidated” buildings in the system, citing”roofing and HVAC issues” that may stem from neglect.The Board reportedly rejected a recommendation to perform an assessment of the system’s facilities in Nov. 2023, delaying it until April 2024 and “placing an unnecessary burden on school system staff,” to get repairs done by the next school year.Ventilation and lighting projects also went unapproved.Once the assessment was completed, several concerns were revealed includingSevere roof leaksHVAC issuesADA non-compliant hardwareStudent LearningThe State believes that the current academic outcomes “do not reflect the knowledge and skills, nor the creativity and commitment of the students, families, faculty, and staff of the System,” stating that the Board has failed to establish an “orderly working environment firmly focused on the well-being of students.”The Board has roughly 15 days to provide a response to the State’s letter, as well as a detailed plan on how they will address the current concerns.If no reply is given, or if the State determines that the reply is inadequate, Superintendent Mackey will request that the State Board of Education “intervene in the operations of the Bessemer City School System as provided by law.””This is a serious matter and one I do not take lightly,” said Mackey. “Inaction puts our students, teachers and school administrators at risk of continuously falling behind the Department’s expectations.”WVTM 13 is currently in attendance at a Bessemer City School Board meeting working to gather more information.

Alabama’s Department of Education has issued a stark warning to the Bessemer City School System over “several issues of major concern,” stating that they may intervene in the system’s day-to-day operations if the problems can’t be solved.

During a recent review of the Bessemer City School System, several issues that “impede the success of student outcomes and overall district operations” were brought to light, according to a document (Request to Show Cause) sent to the school system by the State Department of Education.

These concerns include:

Board Governance

The Department of Education alleges that between January and June of 2024, six meetings of the School Board were canceled due to “losing or lack of a quorum,” meaning that the minimum number of board members could not attend or were not in attendance.

The Department of Education said the cancellation of these meetings “erodes public trust,” led to “critical issues’ going unaddressed” and “suggests that the Board is dysfunctional and ineffective in adequately addressing the needs of the system and its students.”

Financials

  • Although the deadline was Sept. 15, 2023, the Board did not approve a budget and capital plan until Oct. 23, 2023.
  • The Board did not approve the FY 2022 Audit Report until December of 2023.
  • The Board did not approve the lowest cleaning service bid, opting to use another service at “an elevated cost to the district, possibly violating the State bid law.”
  • Bessemer City High School did not have a full-time financial secretary from the beginning of the 2023 school year until Feb. 1, 2024.

Personnel

The Department of Education alleges that “the Board repeatedly failed to fill critical administrative and teacher positions in a timely matter.”

Several employment contracts were reportedly presented to the Board on Sept. 19, 2023 but were then removed from the agenda and not approved for another eight months.

The Board also allegedly hired two…



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2024-07-09 22:55:00

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