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Board bickers over scoreboards, marquee sign

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / March 25, 1998

RESERVE – The discussion of purchasing a marquee sign to be placed in front of a school and the installation of two donated scoreboards was lengthy and heated Thursday night at the St. John the Baptist ParishSchool Board meeting.

Board members argued and “nitpicked” every aspect of the installations.

Finance director Nathan Stein went to the board with a proposal requesting the board spend $4,800 on a marquee sign to be placed in front of Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School. He also requestedthe board spend $4,040 to install two scoreboards – one for the baseball field and one for the softball field – at East St. John High School.The board already set aside some money for $9,220 worth of science lab equipment for the Magnet School. The equipment was installed, but schooladministrators were not at all pleased with it so the bill was unpaid and the equipment returned to Sheldon Co.

“Before I was hired, $10,000 worth of equipment was delivered by Sheldon Co.,” Kathy McWaters, science resource specialist at the Magnet School,said. “It was $250 worth of equipment, and for three years I foughtSheldon Co. to prevent this board from paying for garbage.”Because the school doesn’t have a sign in front and was left with some extra cash to spend on construction, administrators simply asked to shift their funds from one project to another.

Board member Gerald Keller brought up the initial argument that if they place a sign in front of one school it would be unfair to refuse future requests for signs.

“We have other schools requesting signs,” Keller said. “We have neverinstalled them in the past – PTO groups have. If we open the door it wouldbe difficult to say no to other schools.”But board member C.J. Watkins said the board has always installedmarquees in front of St. John schools.Board member James Madere brought up the question of the total cost. Heasked Stein if the submitted figures included the entire installation with electricity. Stein said that the total cost, including electrical equipment,was not revealed yet.

Madere said it seemed to him like every time the board tried to purchase something it always ended up costing a great deal more.

“I don’t want any foolish spending,” Madere said. “When it comes tospending it on educational purposes or discipline, the checkbook should remain open.

“I need to know what the total price is going to be as far as electrical equipment,” Madere added. “If we don’t have the total cost, I cannot voteto approve this.”Board member Russ Wise’s beef was that marquee signs didn’t hold up well and needed a lot of maintenance. “I know of a couple of schools thathave marquee signs that look drab after a few years because they don’t put anything on them anymore,” Wise said.

He then complained about the high cost of installing the scoreboards and said he didn’t appreciate having to pay to install them.

“When we have to pay to install it, it’s not a kind of gift that impresses me,” Wise said. “These things better do things that the scoreboards do atthe Superdome.”The scoreboards, donated by Coca-Cola, have Coca-Cola and PowerAde logos on them. This brought up some concern by board member ClarenceTriche, who said the board voted in 1990 to ax advertising from all public school campuses in St. John.Board member Leroy Mitchell responded by saying the clocks were worth over $10,000 each, and the no advertising policy wasn’t followed anyway.

“At the gym at East St. John, every sign has a name or company on it,”Mitchell said. “Are they going to give that kind of money and expectnothing in return? I think it’s a good investment.”Felix “Pappy” LeBouef moved back to the marquee in front of the Magnet School and expressed the need to install a sign there.

“There’s not one place from here to Sorrento to show you where Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School is,” he said. “We tried to get the state todo it and they wouldn’t do it.”LeBouef, angry, added, “I just want to remind all of you board members how you all nitpick.”Watkins said the school should be allowed to shift its money from one project to another project.

“It’s part of their construction money,” he said. “If they want to shifttheir money and get a sign, they should.”Wise stuck to his original complaint about marquees detracting from the school and said, “I am not opposed to putting a sign in front of Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School. If you want to erect asign of brick that adds to the overall appearance of the school, that’s fine.

This is a magnet school, not a drive-in. Let’s spend that kind of money on apermanent attractive sign.”Farlough said he approved both requests.

“From time to time schools come to me and make requests,” Farlough said.

“I look at them and unless they are way out I bring them to the board.

Personally I think these things are needed.”Several motions and substitute motions were made to waive the no advertising policy and vote to install the scoreboards, and one was made to split the marquee and the scoreboard into two items to be voted on separately. None of this flew with several board members. “We can’t just blatantly say, ‘C’mon in and hang a sign,'” Wise said. “Butwe need to give those that help us a legitimate opportunity to advertise.””We are trying to recruit businesses to come into our schools and get involved,” Keller added.

Finally after over an hour of arguing, the board voted 6-4, with one absent, to install the scoreboards and erect a marquee in front of the Magnet School.

“If we spent this much time on education, we would have the best system in the nation,” board member Aleitha Bardell said.

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