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— Chances are fair that the Decatur School District will hold school board elections next fall, and the community needs to begin considering people who could serve in those positions, superintendent LeRoy Ortman said at Monday's Town Hall Meeting.

"Barring something unforeseen, I would guess that sometime between late winter and early spring, (the Arkansas State Board of Education) will release us from fiscal distress - I don't know this, I assume this," Ortman cautioned.

Five school board positions will be open, Ortman said. School board members are elected by zone in Decatur, and Ortman said he has copies of school board maps in his office for community members who are interested in running for a seat on the school board.

Ortman said he has promised state officials to stay on as superintendent until a school board is elected and a new superintendent is hired.

He said the state Board of Education has several options for choosing a new superintendent. They could employ a new superintendent on July 1, which would give them a say in which superintendent was chosen, or they could wait until a local school board was elected and allow the local board to hire a superintendent.

"That's up to them (the State Board)," Ortman said.

Ortman, who came out of retirement to serve as Decatur's state-appointed superintendent, said he would continue to be available for consultation after a new superintendent is hired, "but not on a regular basis."

Special programs coordinator Bobby King said he has heard rumors that it could be possible to have a special school board election as late as March so that a school board could be in place to hire a superintendent by the traditional deadline of July 1.

"That may or may not be true," he said.

"That would be wise. It would give me time to work with them," Ortman commented about the possibility.

In other business, Ortman reported the Decatur School District's general operating fund had a balance of $531,000 for the month of August, compared to $166,000 in August of 2008.

The $166,000 balance in August of 2008 included an $171,000 cash-flow loan, so the district was actually $5,000 in the red, Ortman explained.

Ortman said he will be presenting a month-by-month comparison of the school's general fund balance for this year and last year at the town hall meetings.

"I would expect the difference to continue to shrink, and by the end of the year it should be the same as what we ended with last year," he said.

Ortman explained that he is in the final stages of planning the budget for 2010, which is tentatively showing an increase of $32,000 from last year's ending balance.

The district will get $158,000 in declining-enrollment funds, which reflects enrollment changes from two years ago.

The school has also been spending federal stimulus money and is waiting to be reimbursed. The government is supposed to reimburse the school automatically within two weeks of when the money is spent, but so far the school has not been repaid.

"All that stimulus money, you have to spend it before you get it, but I haven't seenany yet. That could present a little bit of a problem but not too much with our general fund balance," Ortman said.

As of Friday, the school's enrollment was 486, down 10 students from this time last year, Ortman reported. The district continued to gain students throughout the year last year, and Ortman said he hopes that trend will continue during this school year as well.

News, Pages 1, 2 on 09/23/2009

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