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School board backs Sibbitt

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Superintendent has skills Cannelton needs, Beard says

By STUART CASSIDY

Staff Writer

CANNELTON – The Cannelton School Board is standing by their man. 

During an Oct. 18 meeting, board member Barbara Beard read a statement announcing Schools Superintendent Alva Sibbitt would be retained after recent felony convictions.

“At this time I would like to formally announce the school board’s decision to confirm Dr. Sibbitt’s employment with the Cannelton City Schools. Dr. Sibbitt was hired by the school board for of his expertise in school finance. He has done an excellent job in determining exactly what our financial situation is and what we need to do to become financially secure. We are confident in his ability to resolve our school corporation’s serious financial problems; thus ensuring its continuous operations in the future,” Beard said. “Keeping Cannelton City Schools open for our children is the highest priority to the board and the citizens.”

She said board members unanimously agreed it was in the schools’ “best interest” to retain Sibbitt.

The members signed the statement of support, however an official resolution to retain Sibbitt was not presented.

A Crawford County jury found Sibbitt guilty Oct. 2 on felony counts of intimidation and resisting law enforcement, as well as two misdemeanors. The conviction stemmed from a Dec. 9, 2010 arrest after a traffic stop in Paoli. According to a Dec. 10, 2010, report at theindychannel.com, Sibbitt ran two stop signs when a state trooper tried to pull him over for not wearing a seat belt. The News reported Dec. 19 Sibbitt was arrested after allegedly ramming the trooper’s car with the vehicle he was driving.

Despite the conviction, Sibbitt has maintained his innocence and reiterated after the school-board meeting that he believed he had done nothing wrong. His defense team plans to appeal the conviction. 

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday. 

Sibbitt was hired in December to serve as interim superintendent after the board accused former Superintendent Al Chapman of misappropriating funds. The company for which Sibbitt works, Administrator Assistance, was employed to provide financial consulting.

In May, Sibbitt was awarded a three-year contract that runs through 2015.

“I thank you very much,” Sibbitt told the board. “I plant to execute my contract.”

“I have told (the board) before that I have every expectation that by Dec. 30, 2015, this school corporation will become financially solvent again and all the funds will be back in the black and all of our creditors will be paid off,” he added. “It’s going to take us a number of years to do it.”

According to Sibbitt, the corporation is operation nearly a half-million dollars in the red, but has already made strides to overcome that deficit.

In August, The News reported Cannelton Schools currently owe the IRS about $700,000 and more than $70,000 to state coffers and a special-education cooperative Cannelton is a participant in. A schools attorney is negotiating a settlement with the IRS that would reduce the amount of money owed by the school system. 

Earlier in the meeting, Sibbitt presented financial reports that he said show financial balances look “much brighter.”

Predicting income balances through the end of December, he said estimates show they should have about $50,000 in the bank. That was based on monthly revenues ranging from $3,000 to $5,000. 

Additionally, the corporation was re-appropriated more than $411,000 from the state. Sibbitt said the state Department of Local Government Finance cut $500,000 from this year’s budget because of errors in the corporation’s accounting. The reimbursement was due to the administration’s ability to show improvements in financial responsibility.

Another stride that could help save the corporation thousands of dollars is an amendment to a teachers’ master contract. The move was made after lengthy discussions with Cannelton Classroom Teacher’s Association. 

“I am pleased to report we have a memorandum of understanding,” Sibbitt said.

The change will affect this and next year’s contracts. It will reduce teacher salaries by 5 percent beginning next month and eliminate pay increases for next year, change insurance carriers for medical, dental, life and accidental death and add corporation contributions to a 401(a) early-retirement account. Sibbit said the change in insurance carriers will save the corporation about $50,000. 

Contributing to the retirement fund is expected to save nearly $7,000 through a reduction in necessary payment to Federal Income Contributions Act owed by the corporation. However, Sibbitt said he has yet to find an investment carrier to support the retirement account. 

The agreement will be in effect until it expires Aug. 14, 2014.

The board voted to approve the agreement.