Graduation is a time for students to reflect upon the past four years, set their sights on new beginnings, celebrate their accomplishments — and for adults to fight over the ceremony.
During Lafayette High’s graduation ceremony last Saturday, five members of Lafayette Parish School System’s central office staff sat in gowns on stage along with the superintendent, Lafayette High’s principal, two school board members, and seniors being recognized as finishing high school with national merit and 4.0 grade point average distinctions.
Other central office staffers took seats on the floor with most of the students and teachers. But, unlike the other high school graduation ceremonies that day, central office staff members were not recognized individually during the ceremony and no school board members joined the superintendent and principal in shaking the hands of students who came up to receive their diplomas. The reason Lafayette High’s ceremony differed from the other high schools? A behind-the-scenes drama better suited for Lafayette High’s theatre department.
Last October, principals received a memo from LPSS Director of Curriculum and Instruction Louise Chargois, and approved by Deputy Superintendent Katherine Landry, requesting that each school make certain accommodations for its graduation ceremony.
The memo states: “Each high school is requested to ask their respective board members to come to the stage and join them in congratulating their graduates. Each high school is requested to introduce all board members and staff individually. An attendance sheet will be provided to each high school at the beginning of the graduation ceremony.” Some graduation organizers claim they were told these recognitions were required and should include announcing each staffer’s degree and university alma mater, an account Superintendent Burnell Lemoine disputes.
Nevertheless, it sparked a brush fire of complaints, the majority of which came from Lafayette High, the parish’s biggest high school. With 468 graduating seniors this year, Lafayette High had about twice as many diplomas to hand out as counterparts Northside High and Carencro High, but the same 90-minute time slot in which to do it. One Lafayette High teacher fired off a scathing e-mail to friends, two school board members and members of the media, admonishing the central office for putting itself before students at graduation.
“What is graduation for?” the e-mail read. “We have a large number of honor grads on the stage. They cannot be recognized by name — not enough time. We have students with major scholarships — they are recognized at the senior banquet because we lack time at graduation. We have to have a separate honors program because there is no time for awards at graduation, with the exception of 3 biggies. Valedictorians haven’t been able to speak for years — not enough time. And we now have to recognize the man at the school board who organizes the sales tax collections.
“I think someone needs to speak up about this offensive decision,” the e-mail continues. “Graduation is about recognizing students, not school system cronies, and time is limited. And even if time were not a commodity, it’s a matter of values & priorities, and wasting people’s time. Family & friends come to graduation for the students, not to give Board employees recognition. If they will not give up a day for graduation without recognition — then let them stay home.”
In the end, Lafayette High was not required to recognize any central office staff or school board members individually, and the teacher who wrote the e-mail sent a follow-up apologizing for raising such furor. “I haven’t changed my opinion about the poor priorities behind the decision and others like it,” she wrote in her second e-mail, “but I am embarrassed & ashamed at the manner of my ranting. I’ll start saying the Serenity Prayer more often.”
MAY 20 This post by blogger CB Forgotston draws parallels between Gov. Bobby Jindal and two individuals he probably doesn't want to be aligned with: President Obama and former governor Edwin Edwards. CB says Jindal's trying to jack up the debt ceiling (an Obama play, according to CB) and buy votes from GOP leges who normally wouldn't go for that (an Edwards play, CB says).
MAY 20 Here's a post in the Baptist Message from an alumnus of Louisiana College. The author, Larry Burgess, calls on the leadership of the private school to take care of some pressing problems. Physical plant issues are critical and unaddressed, some faculty make so little they need government health care, and there is an atmosphere that does not encourage honest discussion, he writes. It's time to get things back in order, he says.
MAY 20 This post in Gambit tells of a benefit concert scheduled to raise money for the 19 people shot during a Mother's Day second line on Frenchmen Street in NOLA. Among them was Gambit blogger Deb Cotton, who spoke frequently about violence in the city and reported on the city's second line culture. Gambit's foundation, along with other NOLA non-profits, also is selling t-shirts to raise money for the victims.
MAY 20 Blogger Robert Mann is critical of the personal interest some legislators take in their work here, sharing the comments one NOLA solon made in explaining his decision to vote against a bill that would require people to stop discriminating against female workers. His wife might lose some salary, so he was going to have to vote against the equal pay bill, Conrad Appel said. Appel and everyone who heard him should have been ashamed, but they weren't, and that's what is wrong in that building, Mann argues.
MAY 20 American Press columnist Jim Beam writes about the budget again here, urging kudos for the House and its efforts to try to fix the budget as opposed to passing on a flawed and messy rubber-stamped document as it usually does. The Senate already is poo-pooing the effort, but instead Senators should be trying to find a way to improve it as well, Beam argues. He also has some predictions in here from LABI and CABL.
MAY 20 Here's a link to the photo gallery from Tulane's graduation this past weekend. Dr. John and Allen Toussaint played together and received honorary degrees. The Dalai Lama was so entranced by their performance he got up from his seat and walked across the stage to stand next to them. He even participated in a second line with his own personal, saffron-colored umbrella. To the graduates, he urged them to think about creating a peaceful, hopeful life and society.
MAY 20 This Picayune story questions the rhetoric of NOLA officials who say the city, aside from having a "murder problem," is safe. The talking points generally are that the criminals are killing each other, but everything else is OK. The police chief there says that even Lafayette is more dangerous than NOLA. But crime experts interviewed here say that NOLA's numbers indicate one of two things: either people are so used to violence they don't report it, or somebody's "fudging the numbers."
MAY 20 The Advocate's Mark Ballard writes about some of the background maneuvering that took place during the development of budget alternatives in the Legislature. From Rep. Joel Robideaux being called a "tax and spend liberal" to robo-call influence, Ballard lets us in on some of the work that happens behind the scenes but usually doesn't make it into the Advocate's daily coverage of the session.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.