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.
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.