Wayne Daugherty, Jim Phipps, Bill Roberts, Tonya Moore sworn in for school board terms

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The Switzerland County School Board welcomed four members on Monday night – three familiar faces and one new one -as the board held its January reorganizational meeting.

Wayne Daugherty, representing the Town of Vevay; Jim Phipps, representing Pleasant Township; and Bill Roberts, representing Cotton Township, were all reseated on the board after winning reelection in November. Each will again serve a four-year term.

The new face on the school board is Tonya Moore, who was elected to her first term in November and will represent York Township during her four-year term. She replaces Duane Cole, who did not seek reelection at the conclusion of his term.

The oath of office for the school board members was administered by school corporation attorney Ron Hocker; and after the members were sworn in, they were welcomed by fellow board members Virgil McKay, Andy Truitt, and Vern Waltz. Those three members of the school board are halfway through four year terms.

After the reorganization of the school board, members heard attorney Ron Hocker give them an update on the efforts to recover funds that were embezzled by former corporation treasurer Ann Geyman.

Ron Hocker told the board that the school corporation has currently received $500,000 from bonds that were held in Ann Geyman’s name; just over $50,000 was received from the sale of personal property through the auction that was held to benefit the school corporation; and approximately another $50,000 that will come from the sale of the house, but that isn’t expected to be finalized until after the divorce proceedings between Ann and Raymond Geyman is completed.

The school corporation has also received approximately $5,300 from the Geymans’ checking account; so overall the corporation stands to recover around $600,000 – about half of what was embezzled.

Ron Hocker did remind the school board that the corporation does have a civil judgment against Ann Geyman and will stand to get a portion of her future earnings once she leaves jail, but noted that for the most part the bulk of what the school is going to get back is finished.

“We’re getting pretty close to our final recovery,” Ron Hocker said.

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Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Jones brought the school board up to date on a unique situation involving the school’s textbook rental account.

For the past few years, all textbook rental fees for students in the Switzerland County School System have been paid by the Switzerland County School Endowment Corporation – easing the financial burden of every person with a student in school in the county.

That was the basis for what Dr. Jones termed a series of puzzling discussions between she and corporation treasurer Wilma Swango as the textbook fund continued to sink deeper into the red.

“We couldn’t figure out what was going wrong,” Dr. Jones told the board. “We kept looking at the numbers, but then we found our answer, but we’re going to have to do something about it.”

Dr. Jones noted that the endowment corporation very generously pays the textbook rental fees, which is tabulated by the school corporation running the textbook rental fees for each child in the system, then compiling that total and presenting it to the board.

The problem has arisen because of what Dr. Jones termed as “bubbles” in enrollment, as the number of students in a particular class or grade level moves up or down over time.

When a textbook is purchased, its total cost is spread out over a six year period that the book will be used. Each year when a student pays a book rental fee, they are in essence paying one-sixth of the total cost of the book. By the end of the six year period that the book is used, the entire cost of the book is covered; and a new book for that subject is purchased and the process starts all over again.

But fluctuations in enrollment can cause problems with that system.

For example: If the corporation needs 100 science textbooks to meet the needs of students who will use them during the first year of adoption; then those 100 books are purchased and handed out the next year. At that time, in theory one-sixth of all 100 books has been paid through rental fees.

But the following year, if the class is smaller, maybe only 75 of those books are used and a rental fee paid. The other 25 books – now not being used – are not getting that one-sixth payment, but the book still has to be paid for.

“Fewer students means fewer books, and there’s no payment for the leftovers, but we still have to pay for them,” the superintendent said. “And that’s what’s been causing our textbook rental account to fall into the red.”

Dr. Jones said that she will meet with the endowment corporation in an effort to find a solution to this problem – one of which may be for the endowment to pay the bill for the books as they are purchased, eliminating rental fees all together because the books are already paid for in full.

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In other business of the school board:

– The resignation of deputy treasurer Melissa May was accepted; and Eric Cole was hired as the middle school swim coach.

– An endowment request by the Switzerland County Elementary School PTO for new playground equipment in the amount of $11,835 was approved.

– The next meeting of the Switzerland County School Board will be on Monday, January 26th, with the regular meeting starting at 7 p.m.

– The school board held its mandated Board of Finance meeting, with members reviewing the corporation’s investment policy, outstanding check report, and also approved the depositories that the corporation keeps its funds in.