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.
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.