Lakeland school board rewards supt., hears public concerns

LSS logoLakeland’s school board extended the superintendent’s contract and voted him a bonus at Monday’s board meeting. They also heard citizen concerns about possible mold growth at the elementary school, approved a budget for the before/after school program and voted on other routine matters.

Superintendent’s contract

Lakeland School System superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell received a two-year extension to his contract, taking it to June 30, 2019. He also was granted a $5,000 bonus for excellence in his duties for the 2014-15 school year.

Board members praised his hard work, skills and dedication as he wore many hats for the small school district during its inaugural year.

The board approved awarding another $5,000 bonus if the state names Lakeland Elementary School as a Reward School for performing in the top 5 percent of the state in either achievement or growth. Reward Schools are due to be announced the week of Aug. 3, Horrell said.

Mold concerns

Aspergillus mold
Aspergillus mold. (Stock photo via

During the public commentary portion of the meeting, Lou Melton of Lakeland brought up an issue she has repeatedly asked the school board to address in recent weeks: The potential of mold remaining in the Lakeland Elementary School building and HVAC system.

On Tuesday, Horrell said he and the board are discussing the best way to proceed and will bring up a plan of action at a future school board meeting.

“We take any concerns from our residents seriously,” he said. “And we’re taking that concern seriously even though we don’t have any reason to believe there is a mold issue.”

When the school was still part of the Shelby County Schools (SCS) system, roof leaks led to mold growth, and SCS hired a firm to assess eight rooms.

Tioga Environmental Consultants, a Memphis-based company, performed inspections on March 31 and, after roof repairs and removal of some moldy books and wet ceiling tiles, again on April 8 of 2014.

The Tioga report first noted that there are no known standards for acceptable levels of indoor airborne fungal spore concentrations, so levels are usually compared to those in the surrounding outdoors and other indoor locations on a site.

The study found slightly elevated levels of penicillium/aspergillus mold spores in Rooms 310, 308 and 304. There were highly elevated levels in Room 203. Tioga said the high level was probably due to disturbance of the mold growth on books when they were removed. The building also had low levels of stachybotrys in Room 310.

The April 8 follow-up inspection found that airborne mold levels had dropped to below what was in the outdoor comparison air sample, but some ceiling tiles were already wet again. Tioga did not recommend further mold remediation but did call for school officials to identify any additional roof leaks, repair them, and quickly replace any damp ceiling tiles or other materials that become wet from roof leaks.

Melton said she is not convinced that the building’s air conditioning was even on during the last inspection, so she questions the accuracy of the follow-up air sampling. She also questions whether the HVAC units, all of the building’s vents, and even the space between the fiberglass dropped ceiling tiles and the metal roof were properly examined.

Tioga’s report said, in part, that “mold growth may occur in areas of the property that are not addressed with this report. This investigation did not include areas not known to have experienced water intrusion or inaccessible areas. This report is not intended for use in rendering opinions regarding health.”

Other business

The school board also received the multiple updates and/or took the following actions:

  • Middle school update: Contract negotiations are ongoing for purchase of the middle school land, Horrell said.
  • Reserve fund: A few bills for the previous school year are still trickling in, but it still looks as if the district will have a respectable $600,000 in reserve (about 8.5 percent of the first year’s budget), Horrell said.
  • LEAP budget: The board approved a $191,500 budget for the Lakeland Extended Activities Program (LEAP). This before- and after-school program was previously managed externally but will be managed by the district during the 2015-16 school year. The YMCA will continue administering the summer program, Horrell said. LEAP is entirely funded by extra fees parents pay for their children to participate.
  • September date change: The September board meeting date has been changed to Sept. 1 to avoid conflicts with Labor Day and the superintendent’s attendance at an annual superintendents’ meeting in Gatlinburg.

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to