The handwriting was on the wall throughout much of the night, as it became crystal clear the board had not properly planned for the financial strain of the comprehensive Thibodaux and Career and Technical High School at the old Kmart site, a more than $50 million initial investment that didn’t include buildout of the athletic complex the board insists needs to be part of the school, nor did it include staffing and other operational costs. (For more on the Kmart plan, read The Independent Weekly's Nov. 10 analysis, "Board Games.") The school board and system had no plan for how it would meet the annual multi-million-dollar debt obligation, other than to, as Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry pointed out, cut expenses. None of those expenses were identified.
N.P. Moss, on the other hand, will cost about $23 million, which does include the athletic complex and operating costs. Board members Cobb and Ed Sam, along with community leaders and parents, pleaded with the board to give the Moss community time to have a voice in the matter, but the board rejected the request. This year Moss entered its third year of academically unacceptable status; improving its scores to a level that would prevent a state takeover next year is statistically impossible, Academic Accountability Officer Tom Spencer told the board.
The system’s administration and board members argued against turning this community asset over to the state (Moss opened in 1999 and the system is still paying for it) and said such action would be an embarrassment, but board member-elect Tehmi Chassion countered that the situation is already humiliating. “Is the state taking over a bad thing?” Chassion asked. “[Because] the current situation has been an embarrassment for a very, very long time.”
And while school board members tried to make the case that the state has a poor track record of improving failing schools, Spencer acknowledged that half of the New Orleans schools taken over by the state are doing "substantially better."
In order to put Moss back into contention, the board had to rescind its March vote to keep Moss as a middle school. The board voted unanimously to rescind the action, and when board member Hunter Beasley asked for a substitute motion to defer voting on Moss as the site for the new high school until Wednesday’s regular meeting, it died in a 4-4 tie with Greg Awbrey, Mark Babineaux, Rae Trahan and Mark Cockerham voting against it. The board then threw its support 7-1 to Moss.
Superintendent Burnell Lemoine said efforts will be made to keep the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy and the International Baccalaureate Academy students at Moss, both of which could feed into the new high school, on a permanent basis. The upstart Thibodaux Career and Technical High School, housed temporarily at the Acadiana Technical College’s campus, has 49 students. N.P. Moss has about 300, though the campus has the capacity to serve 1,000. It has been losing students to other schools because of its poor academic status.
At Monday's meeting the board also approved the $1.1 billion facilities master plan; options for funding the plan will be discussed at a later date. The plan took a year to develop and cost $900,000.
At its Wednesday meeting, the board is likely to face a barrage of criticism from Moss stakeholders, who in March made a strong case for keeping their community school and working hard to continue its academic improvement.
Visualize Lafayette’s next great thing from 3,000 feet.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled, according to the governor's office.
As the courts hash out the attempts to preserve and shelve Common Core in Louisiana, a group of six state lawmakers are planning an Aug. 22 trip to Oklahoma to meet with their counterparts and strategize for the 2015 regular session.
While hopes are high for turnout this fall, a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate suggests that Louisiana's midterm face-offs may amount to nothing special in terms of votes cast.
The attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper has submitted his final report, though it may be another week before the findings are made public.
Poachers killing elephants at increasing rates; independent autopsy on Brown; Gaza truce continues and more national and international news for Tuesday, August 19, 2014.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Tea Party of Louisiana is calling Sen. David Vitter a “turncoat” for his newfound embrace of Common Core educational standards.
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.
Lafayette attorney Michelle Meaux-Breaux has announced her plans to seek the Division E seat for judge in the 15th Judicial District.
A card-carrying member of Lafayette’s “tribe,” Milton “Spider” Guidry died over the weekend. IND music writer Nick Pittman remembers the character and the man.
As tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, Mo., between law enforcement and residents protesting the shooting death of a local teen by police, we’re reminded of the peculiar circumstances surrounding the in-custody death earlier this year of a New Iberia man.
A group of teachers and parents who support Common Core is asking a state judge to invalidate Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the multi-state education standards.
Drew Brees walked up to the line of scrimmage early Sunday, taking a snap during the New Orleans Saints' pre-practice walk-through.
A state judge Friday refused a temporary injunction sought against state education officials in an effort to block implementation of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana.
UL was the consensus pick in a coaches' preseason poll to win the league, and experience has a lot to do with that.
The price tag has nearly doubled for Gov. Bobby Jindal's hiring of an outside consulting firm to recommend new ways to balance the state budget.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is under scrutiny for billing private chartered planes to her Senate office when she used the flights to attend campaign fundraisers.
Many people found not guilty by reason of insanity are being held in Louisiana jails, where they cannot get the treatment they need, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
In a just-released audio recording, City Prosecutor Gary Haynes claims Mike Harson had direct dealings with the alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme in the DA’s office.
C-P councilmen sponsor a resolution in support of the notion that one should subscribe to Tea Party ideas about civics before being allowed to seek public office.
Russel Honoré, the retired U.S. Army general known for his role in restoring order to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and most recently for his involvement in the Green Army movement to stop environmental abuses of Louisiana, has now weighed in on the police response to protestors in Ferguson, Mo.
More than three dozen restaurants, bars, convenience stores and supermarkets in Lafayette Parish are facing fines in connection with the state office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control’s 2014 “Summer Crackdown.”
The grim news, delivered to the joint legislative budget committee, barely raised eyebrows at the committee hearing, after more than six years of such disappointing financial forecasts.