The Lafayette Parish School Board will hold a workshop at 5 p.m. Monday to discuss, among other things, implementation of the $1 billion facilities master plan presented to the board and the public nearly six months ago by CSRS, the Baton Rouge planning firm paid $900,000 to analyze Lafayette Parish’s deteriorating public schools. While the board has received the plan, it has yet to decide how to fund the ambitious project, which includes construction of several new schools in addition to maintenance and upgrades at virtually every other public school in the parish. CSRS has recommended a parishwide property tax.
The workshop will be followed by a 6:30 p.m. special meeting during which the board is expected to choose a proposed site for Thibodaux Career and Technical High School. The presumed location, based on publicized comments from some board members as well as a suspicious sequence of events, is the abandoned Super Kmart building and adjacent property at the intersection of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and Ridge Road. In addition to up to $8 million for the purchase of the Kmart and adjacent land, construction of the school is projected to cost more than $40 million, bringing the total project cost to roughly $50 million.
We’re asking the public to attend today’s workshop and meeting, and to urge board members to allow the next school board, which will be sworn into office in January, to make the final decision on the site for the career and technical high school, and, moreover, to decide whether proceeding with a $50 million project before the other critical needs within the master plan are undertaken is the most prudent course. In last Wednesday’s news analysis, “Board Games,” this newspaper asked the current board to do just that: slow down the process, allow the public more time to better understand the proposal for a career/tech high school, let the incoming board make the decision. The Daily Advertisertook a similar position in an editorial three days later.
We find it at least noteworthy that when the board finalized the 2010-2011 fiscal year budget last summer, it voted to pull $4.5 million out of the school system’s maintenance fund and set it aside to purchase a site for the career/technical school. The asking price for the Kmart site is $4.5 million. And while the former commercial site on Ambassador Caffery had been rumored for months to be the desired location of some board members, the public didn’t receive confirmation that the Kmart site was a candidate until mid October, more than three months after the board set aside the $4.5 million. This suggests to us that some board members settled on the Kmart location several months ago, but didn’t let on until very recently.
We believe Lafayette Parish needs a sixth public high school, and that the proposed Thibodaux Career and Technical High is a good idea. We applaud the board for embracing the concept. But for outgoing board members to essentially ram this project through, to saddle the incoming board with a $50 million project while more than $1 billion in facilities needs wait in the wings, is not just reckless; it also threatens to further erode the ever-compromised trust the public has in the school board.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
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.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.