"I get home sometimes at midnight or one," she says, standing outside the Lafayette High cafeteria. "And get up again every morning at four to be here for five."
As head custodian at Lafayette High, Provost says she takes home $1,032 a month after taxes and insurance. A single mother of three, Provost struggles to afford her monthly house note, college tuition payments for her eldest child and basic living expenses. Recent increases in insurance payments for school employees and rising gas prices have made her feel the pinch even more.
"And I got another one that's fixing to graduate [high school] and needs to go to college," she says. "It's hard."
"Here, a supplementary job is crucial," says custodian Tracy Despanie, a father of three who's worked at Lafayette High for almost five years. "Without it, I don't think you'd be able to buy a plate lunch on Friday. So, it's very important that we do what we do."
At $7.51 an hour, Despanie is among the lowest paid Lafayette Parish School System employees. His monthly take home pay is about $750 a month. "It's not enough," he says.
Provost and Despanie are anxiously awaiting the outcome of pay raise proposals from both local and state government.
In the state Legislature, the governor's recommended budget includes a $500 raise for support staff and a $1,500 raise for teachers. The budget bill is now making its way through both the state House and Senate.
On June 7, the Lafayette Parish School Board meets to decide what to do about a 2.5 percent raise that it promised support workers at the beginning of the year.
The board and school support workers hoped to address longstanding salary inequities in the system ' where employees are not paid according to seniority ' but the school year is now rapidly coming to a close, and employees still have not received the bulk of the raises they were promised.
The board balked at giving raises in February, when a staff committee came back with a proposal asking for salary adjustments that would cost the board $750,000 more than it had budgeted. The staff salary proposal included some exorbitant pay raises in the range of $15,000 and $20,000 more per year for some of the school system's high level administrators.
The school board has now hired a professional consultant, at a cost of $50,000, to complete a comprehensive review of all of the support staff's salaries. The consultant will compare school employees' salaries against both private sector jobs and other school systems.
Mike Hefner, a veteran school board member of 17 years, says it would have been irresponsible for the board to approve a salary plan that in some cases would have created new inequities.
"We have to be good stewards to the taxpayers' money," he says. "This is far more complex than we initially envisioned, and at this point we just need to get some professional help on it. Whatever we do, we have to make sure we do it right."
The delays have left many support staff employees angry and skeptical. Almost 100 school system employees recently protested outside the school board offices on Surrey Street.
Last week, at a meeting room at Girard Park, more than 40 school system support staffers gathered with local leaders from the Louisiana Association of Educators union to discuss the pay raise issue. Tempers occasionally flared at the meeting from workers, many of whom were cafeteria workers, custodians and clerical employees. One woman, who had been working at a couple of Lafayette Parish schools, including Woodvale Elementary, vented that she has been bitten, spit at on the job and "cleaned up enough puke."
"Everybody's hollerin' for their raises, and they deserve it," says Provost, who wanted to attend the Girard Park meeting but had to work.
Hefner says that the employee protests and threats of a walkout have not helped in moving the issue forward. "I don't think it was a very mature way to handle things," he says. "It didn't put any pressure on me. It actually gets in the way of getting some things done. Those that did call me about it that were picketing, protesting or whatever, really didn't understand the issue in the first place. I think they were doing that based on a lot of misinformation. I think people were telling them things that weren't necessarily true."
"The problem with the consultant coming at that time is that the school year's gone," says Aitha Lewis, a secretary at Moss Annex and co-president of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educational Office Professionals. "Now you can do a plan for next year but having a consultant come in at such a late date, after the school board approving that everybody would get their salaries adjusted, it just made everybody furious."
Lewis said many employees had counted on having that extra money this year.
School system support workers have only gotten .5 percent of the 2.5 percent raise promised by the board last year. Because of the delays in appropriately adjusting salaries, Hefner says the board will now vote at its June 7 meeting on distributing the remaining 2 percent salary raise as a one-time supplement. An additional $1 million that the board added to help fix the salary inequities will go into a new salary plan ' based on the consultant's report ' to be adopted for next year.
Hefner says once a new salary plan is finally adopted for 2007, it should finally address inequities that have plagued the school system for decades. Often, veteran employees with more than 20 years of service in the school system earn less than new employees in the same job. In its review, the staff committee found that some longtime employees were underpaid by up to $9,000.
"I know that there's some people," Hefner says, "that have been victims of some pretty gross inequities and while it may be demoralizing, they put in one hell of a job for the school system. But it's got to be on the back of their mind, I'm doing all this work and so and so is doing the same thing but he's getting paid a lot more than I am."
At Lafayette High, Provost and Despanie say that newly hired substitute custodians make the same pay as they do. A veteran Lafayette High veteran teaching assistant of 26 years, who wished not to be identified, says she makes the same as all other T.A.s at the school, many of who were hired in the past five years.
Whatever the board does, Despanie says they need to do it soon, as many employees have been counting on extra money to pay outstanding bills. "It's costing us more to wait," he says. "They're not going to be able to keep good people. My second job pays more than this job. What are they going to do when all the good workers are gone and one person's going to have to do double the work?"
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
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.
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.