Directors debate superintendent's spending on reader board

OROVILLE – Although they said they support the new Oroville school reader board, at least two district board members questioned the superintendent’s spending on the district’s share of the sign and its installation.

The issue came up during the superintendent’s update on the new remotely-programmable electronic reader board slated to replace the old school sign. The district received a $12,500 donation from the Oroville Booster Club and a $10,000 donation from Kinross Gold Company to put towards the new sign’s purchase. The total cost of the sign is estimated to be about $32,000, according to the Superintendent Steve Quick.

“The reader board has been ordered and the city’s permit administrator said the old permit for the sign will work because it is actually smaller. One thing he would like is a bigger footing; the old one is cracked,” said Supt. Quick. “The sign is scheduled for delivery April 23rd.”

School Board Chairman Phil Barker said he had called the sign company about the costs involved and felt installation and updates to the electrical service would be more than the superintendent’s $10,000 estimate. He also questioned the superintendent’s right to obligate the district for the cost of the reader board above the donations, without coming to the board for approval.

Director Rocky DeVon, who had earlier discussed his recent attendance at a school board members training, said the superintendent was like the CEO of a company and had a board-approved budget that can be used without prior approval of the board.

“The superintendent is not supposed to be micromanaged by the board,” he said.

DeVon said that Barker had told him that he told the sign company to cancel the order.

“That’s not what I said. I didn’t cancel the order, I just asked them if they had the one check. They might not get one from the district too soon,” said Barker.

Quick responded, “I guess for me as superintendent we have a budget and that’s what needs to be used. It is going to cost the district about $10,000. I sat down with (Booster Club president) Kevin Kinman before the purchase and we have a plan.

“I guess to me as a project it is worth doing. We can’t really back out of a contract that we made with Jameson (Signs). We found a way to make our budget work, we received generous donations of more than two-thirds the project cost. We felt we had to jump on this.”

Barker said the installation and changes to the electrical service could become a “money pit.”

“Steve Quick is the executive officer of the board, we’re not going to micromanage him,” repeated DeVon.

“The total cost of the budget should have been known by the board at the time we voted on the purchase,” said Director David Nutt.

DeVon explained the board had not voted on the purchase of the sign, but had instead voted on acceptance of the two donations which were dedicated toward the sign’s purchase.

“You guys approve the final payment, but very rarely do we come before the board for prior approval of items that are in the budget,” said Quick, giving the example of the new computers that were recently purchased for the computer lab and whose vouchers were being paid for that night.

Barker said he felt that the new sign constituted a construction project and as such would need board approval.

District business manager Shay Shaw, saying the project could easily fall under the category of maintenance as the old dilapidated sign was getting replaced. She said maintenance would not require the board’s prior approval.

“I don’t want him to come to us every time the district needs to buy toilet paper,” said DeVon.

Director Amy Wise said, “He’s done his homework and he’s doing what the district wants him to do.”

Director Nutt said he just wished the superintendent had made clear what the district’s cost would have been before the purchase was made.

Several members of the Booster Club expressed their support for Quick’s actions. Earlier in the meeting Kinman talked about how the club had already donated $21,386 to the district, not counting the new sign for a total nearing $34,000. These donations often help to save the district from spending or asking for additional levy money, according to Kinman.

During his winter coach’s report, girls basketball coach Mike Bourn said the Oroville Booster Club was the envy of the region, estimating that over the years the club had saved the district over $500,000.

“I would sure find that money for the sign, because all the donations from the booster club have helped offset the levy all those years,” Bourn said. “It is the best booster club I have ever worked with and everywhere I’ve been around it is the envy of coaches from all the other schools.”