Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Lafayette Parish School Board made a sensible decision Monday night when it decided not to purchase the vacant Super Kmart site on Ambassador Caffery to serve as the future home of Thibodaux Career and Technical High School, voting instead to locate the career/tech school at N.P. Moss Middle. The public wasn’t given enough time to digest the monumental ramifications of placing a public high school on one of the busiest traffic arteries in Lafayette, and the next school board, which takes office in January, would have been saddled with a $50 million dollar undertaking even as more than $1 billion in other facilities needs loom. The cost of modifying the middle school to accommodate a career/tech school — $22.3 million — is substantially lower than retrofitting an abandoned big box store. Many questions remain on how the Moss transition will unfold, and there’s still the question of whether the state will take over the low-performing middle school. But passing on the Kmart site was not only wise of the board, it was responsive to community concerns.

As we applaud with one breath the outgoing school board not hitching the incoming board’s mule to a $50 million wagon, we sigh with the other for the N.P. Moss families, forced like a Donner party to face the prospect of eating their young. The haste with which the board shifted from buying the rusting, tumbleweed Super Kmart site to voting to locate the new highschool in Moss gave those families, who successfully opposed that option earlier this year and thought it was off the table, no time to acclimate themselves to the weather. A blizzard in a mountain pass. Even board member Hunter Beasley’s motion to simply defer the vote on choosing Moss to Wednesday — a measly two days later —  in order to give those families time to formulate a response failed 4 to 4. Infer through grade school addition that only eight of the nine board members attended Monday’s meeting; board president Carl LaCombe, arguably the catalyst for making Thibodaux Tech a reality right here, right now and in the old Kmart site, was absent from what was probably the most important meeting of his 20-year career on the board.

Fresh on the heels of the disaster that was the Nov. 2 election, the Obama White House is weathering renewed criticism over its mishandling of the BP oil spill disaster. The Interior Department’s inspector general last week concluded that the administration edited a drilling-safety report in a way that made it appear, falsely, that scientists and industry experts supported Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. It’s the latest in a litany of accusations that the administration downplayed scientific findings and misrepresented data. And for a presidential candidate who vowed to rely on science to guide policy, it’s a major disappointment.

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