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.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.
Did the state close last year's books with a surplus or a deficit?
Practicing without limitations on Wednesday, running back Mark Ingram looked ready to return to a New Orleans offense that once again ranks among the NFL's best when the Saints play at Detroit on Sunday.
It’s been decided: Superintendents of Louisiana’s public school system will retain the controversial powers granted by Act 1 of the 2012 session.
Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has a bone to pick with the Jindal administration, which recently — surprise! — announced that the state ended the most recent budget year with a $178.5 million dollar surplus.
The messaging battle, however, isn't tied to individual campaign accounts. Third-party groups have poured millions of dollars into advertising.