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St. John’s school board meeting long; much covered

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / April 6, 1998

RESERVE – In a five and a half hour meeting Thursday night St. John the Baptist Parish School Board members spent money on maintenance projects, discussed etiquette, ground beef, advertising and administrative overtime pay and voted unanimously that East St. John High should change its school scheduling to the 4×4 plan.

Nathan Stein, executive manager of finance, presented the grounds maintenance bids from four companies. The lowest bids were Guidry’sIndustrial on four locations and Sid’s Lawn on the remaining school locations. Low bidders were awarded the grass-cutting jobs.But Alfred Cooley of Cooley Enterprise, another bidder, said that he wasn’t informed when the bids would be opened.

Stein said the proposal package indicated when the sealed bids would be opened. He added that only a few people showed up for the bid opening.Board member C.J. Watkins suggested that a mistake was made incalculating the low bidders.

“There is a possibility it was done inaccurately,” he said. “Someone isgetting the bids and determining who is the low bidder.”Board member Russ Wise suggested a board committee should be in charge of opening the bids.

“I would really prefer that because of the impression people are getting that there are improprieties with the way I open the bids,” Stein said.

A woman who would not state her name spoke before storming out of the board room. She insinuated that the bid opener opens the bids and thencalls the company that they want to get the job, telling them to bid lower if they want the position.

Stein again said that he would like a board committee to open bids from now on. “I don’t want to have to stand up here and defend myself againstsomething that never happened,” he said.

*** At the March 19 board meeting board members questioned the policy of advertising on school campuses. “As long as it brings money into theschool system we should let them advertise and say they are there helping us,” board member Clarence Triche said.

The board voted 10-0 to accept this. Russ Wise was absent at the time ofvoting.

*** Wise began a discussion about Values Education. He said he made a motiontwo years ago to get this type of curriculum in the policy, but he was voted down. He said House Bill 102 recently passed, which was addingCharacter Education into schools – a similar program to Wise’s idea.

“The bill passed 101-1,” he said. “We could have been trendsetters in thestate.”Wise wanted it added to school board policy that students should be encouraged by their teachers to address their elders with yes ma’am and sir and say please and thank you. “Etiquette, politeness and civility arethings we must bring back to our society,” he said.

Wise made a motion, which was seconded by Dowie Gendron.

School board members said that would be hard to implement because there was no set program, just ink on paper saying teachers should encourage students. “I think Mr. Wise is on the right trail, but the wrong track,”board member Gerald Keller said.

And Triche said that it would be impossible to legislate teaching styles.

Keller made a substitute motion that Superintendent Cleveland Farlough, along with his staff, devise a plan in which it can be implemented into the curriculum, which would be presented to the board at the first meeting in May. LeBouef seconded Keller’s motion, which passed 9-1, with Wisevoting against it and Aleitha Bardell being absent at the time of the vote.

*** Watkins brought up the issue of the vandalisms and car burglaries in the parking lots of East St. John and West St. John High schools. “We don’thave any security,” he said. “When a car gets vandalized we don’t haveinsurance to help.”Farlough said he was concerned and will also present some prevention tips at the first meeting in May.

*** Terry Charles, nutrition director, said the school board can save $5,746.88if it joins a pilot program already being pursued by 10 parishes.

What is does is divert donated commodity ground beef from the USDA to an approved processor, who will process the ground beef into hamburger patties. It will provide students with more acceptable hamburger pattiesthat resemble those from fast food restaurants, Charles said.

The price of the beef would be cheaper, Charles said, because there would be no storage cost. The processor would get the meat and process it andship it to the schools as needed.

A motion to accept this was made by Keller and seconded by Bardell. Itpassed 11-0.

*** Debbie Schum, principal at East St. John High School, presented ademonstration on the new block scheduling program or 4×4 plan the school plans to implement next school year.

She said results of a student poll questioning whether they wanted to move to this type of scheduling or not revealed that 75 percent of the students want to make the change.

“Our staff is really looking forward to it,” Schum said. “They know thatwe need to do something to improve the students’ achievement.”The board accepted the 4×4 plan unanimously.

*** The request of approval of a Summer Child Care Program was ousted by board members because one administrator asked for $2,735.03 in overtimepay.

Stephenie Watkins, would-be director of the program, said she would have to work an hour and a half extra each day during the summer to do the job.

“We have a lot of employees who have spent many extra hours and aren’t paid overtime,” board member Matthew Ory said.

Watkins said she is one of those employees, but this is a different situation because social services asked the school system to be in charge of the program.

A passing vote was made, followed by Stein saying that if she was paid the overtime he would file a grievance because he had added responsibilities that he wasn’t paid for.

At that, Wise made a motion to reconsider the vote. The motion passedwith a 6-5 vote. Leroy Mitchell, Gendron, James Madere and Richard DeLongvoted against it and C.J. Watkins was absent.”I’m not saying Ms. Watkins shouldn’t be paid,” Ory said. “But if we’regoing to pay one, we need to pay everybody.”The vote failed 4-4. Farlough said they would do some more work on it andresubmit the Summer Child Care Program at a later date.

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