Lamar County school superintendent answers your questions - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Lamar County school superintendent answers your questions

These are all the questions we received from viewers during a live chat with Ben Burnett, Lamar County school superintendent.

We couldn't get to all the questions live on air - so he took the questions home and sent them back to us.

[Comment From Delaine: ]
Do you think there are too many assistant superintendents in Mississippi?

Ben Burnett - I don't know what the average school district has. When I took office, we had two full time and one part time Asst. Supt. As of next year, we will have one full time and one part time (reduction of one).

5:38  [Comment From Karl: ]
Do you think all students should go to college, or should they get vocational training.

Ben Burnett - Students who receive vocational training can still go to college. Vocational programs are wonderful and ALL students need to take advantage of them.

5:44  [Comment From Cooper: ]
This question is for Dr. Burnett. As a school district, what is your position on the proposed bill of going from 180 school days to 175? 

Ben Burnett - I like the idea. If it passes, we would still try to get in the same amount of instructional time (by adding minutes to the day) but 5 days of not having school would save a huge amount of money.

5:45  [Comment From Laura: ]
what would you have done if it was your school the lesbian girl wanted to go to prom with her girlfriend?

Ben Burnett - In Lamar County, Proms are not sponsored by the school, but are community events.

5:51  [Comment From Guest: ]
with all the budget cuts, how many teachers will be losing their jobs this year in both counties? 

Ben Burnett - We don't anticipate a large reduction of teachers. Whatever reduction we have, we hope to accomplish this with teachers who are retiring or leaving.

5:52  [Comment From Travis: ]
I recently read that Lamar County Schools is taking on a $1.5 million roof project. In these economic times, how will this project be funded?

Ben Burnett - This project will address roof needs in every school and should get them fixed for the next 10 years. We are borrowing from the 16th section fund set aside for this. It will cost about $80,000 a year to pay back (some years we pay this much in patching our old roofs!)

5:54  [Comment From Guest: ]
This question is for Dr. Burnett. What has the growth of your school district been in the past couple of years and what are you doing to plan for future growth? 

Ben Burnett - We have an enrollment study done for the next 10 years. It predicts we could grow anywhere from 12,000 students to over 17,000 students (up from 8,600 at present).  We are trying to complete a 5-10 year facility plan to accommodate this growth.

6:04  [Comment From Joan Reid Joan Reid: ]
Why isn't Cheerleading considered a sport in our school system ??? I don't think a foot ballplayer could hold someone in the palm of their hand over their heads. 

Ben Burnett - As I said on the interview this morning, I do think it is a sport.

6:04  [Comment From Tessecca Bliven Tessecca Bliven: ]
What's with all the cut backs in teachers??? Are they still cutting back next school year?? Is the state dept. of ed. decreasing school funding again or what??? 

Ben Burnett - The state is cutting MAEP funds anywhere from 12-17%.  That would result in as much as 6 million dollars for our district.

6:06  [Comment From Debbie Shepherd Debbie Shepherd: ]
There is word of 4 day school days, is that going to happen in our state? Are the kids going to have longer summers?ex: (get out in May as usual, but start back after labor day) 

Ben Burnett - There is no word that this is possible at this time. It would save a ton of money, but would add a huge burden on our parents.

6:08  [Comment From dave dave: ]
why do the employees at the school bus barn use tobacco in the building and on the property? 

Ben Burnett - I'm not sure if this was meant for Lamar or Jones county. It is not legal to use tobacco products on a school campus-for any reason.

6:09  [Comment From christy: ]
Dr. Burnett, in the face of cutbacks, it's been my experience that the arts always suffer. Is there any chance that as these financial restraints become tighter that arts in Lamar co. will stop being funded?

Ben Burnett - It is our hope that our art and music programs will not suffer during this time.

6:13  [Comment From Lynn: ] Wouldn't it make sense for the legislature to forgive the school districts this year for the days missed because of weather issues? Wouldn't it put back thousands of dollars in the district's budgets? 

 Ben Burnett -Yes, I agree it would.

6:15  [Comment From Susan: ]
For Dr. Burnett - I'm excited about the new dress code for Lamar County students. Is there a certain uniform store that I need to use to purchase my children's clothes?

Ben Burnett -Our district does NOT endorse ANY retail store or school uniform company.  The new dress code was made in a way where you could buy from a dollar store, retail store in the mall or a uniform company.  It is not our intent to have any ONE company doing business with this new dress code.

6:20  [Comment From Mike in Lamar Co Mike in Lamar Co: ]
Dr. Burnett - considering the well publicized necessary budget cuts, what are your plans regarding central office administration in the school district? Thursday March 25, 2010 6:20 Mike in Lamar Co

Ben Burnett - We have 5 administrators retiring (2 in the central office). We are going to not replace the central office positions and the ones at the school will be filled with current administrators.  That means a savings of 5 administrative salaries.

6:20  [Comment From James: ]
My child is in Gifted Education and I'm worried that this will be an area that will be cut? What are the chances of this happening? 
Ben Burnett -There is no word on cutting Gifted Ed at this time.  That funding comes from the state and is required for grades 2-6.

6:20  [Comment From Mike in Lamar Co Mike in Lamar Co: ]
Is there too much emphasis on sports and will coaches be affected by budget cuts proportionally with other areas?

Ben Burnett -Yes, we do plan to cut coaching contracts during this time.  No final decision on how much has been made.

6:20  [Comment From Tommie (jones county) Tommie (jones county): ]
Do you feel that cutting some of the assistants in the central offices would be beneficial to affording more money for the schools? 

Ben Burnett - I addressed this earlier.  We plan on doing this.

6:20  [Comment From Guest: ]
Why can't Central Office personnel be cut and create quality assurance personnel to help meet the NCLB Initiative, instead of consolidating schools? 

Ben Burnett - We are doing this.

6:21  [Comment From Guest: ]
For Dr. Burnett. Will athletic positions be cut along with instructional positions? 

Ben Burnett - Yes, that is our plan

6:26  [Comment From Guest: ]
have you ever considered cutting sports and putting those funds in PE classes so all children can be healthier? 

Ben Burnett - We have PE teachers at every level at this point.  It is my hope we can keep them.

6:31  [Comment From bill: ]
We know how much teachers get paid ... where can we find out how much administration gets paid? 

Ben Burnett - All school salaries are public information. You can contact each central office for that info.

6:33  [Comment From Jan Henry Jan Henry: ]
Will teachers be cut or just no new teachers hired 

Ben Burnett - We hope to reduce by only positions left open by retirements.  We will know in 2-3 weeks if we can accomplish that.  We will be able to fill MOST reductions with open positions (retirements etc...)

6:34  [Comment From Guest: ]
Great Job Dr. Burnett....appreciate your positive attitude and hard work for our children of Lamar County.

Ben Burnett - Thanks!

6:37  [Comment From Linda Jones Linda Jones: ]
Will sports be cut like tennis and softball? Tennis already is underfunded 
Ben Burnett -We don't plan on cutting these sports at this time. 

6:38  [Comment From Sam Williams Sam Williams: ]
I know with budget cuts funds have to be increased from other sources or programs cut. My question is with everyone having budgeting issues when will Lamar County School District quit asking for the automatic 8 percent increase. My property taxes have gone up every year recently

Ben Burnett -There is no automatic 8% increase.  Schools can only ask for a 4% increase if they are under the 55 mill cap.  Lamar County is currently one of the few districts in the area under that cap (approx. 52 mills).  This past year, we only asked for a 2% increase.  This was the first time in over a decade that the entire 4% was not requested.  In addition, there is "new program" money we can request.  That would have added another million dollars to our budget, but we didn't ask for it.  If we would have asked for the 4% and the new program money, we would have reached the cap at 55 mills.  That is why we only asked for 2%.  The increase came out to 1.25 mills (that comes to $12.50 a year on a $100,000 home). While I don't like tax increases as a taxpayer myself, I felt that this was a very small increase given the tough times we are facing.  Many might say we didn't ask for enough since we ended up getting cut by so much.  If you will give me a call at the office, I'll be happy to get your email address and send you some more complete info.

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