St. John school sickout possible

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 10, 2001


RESERVE – Parents could find themselves making special arrangements Monday for their children due to a planned teacher sickout that will probably force St. John Parish public schools to close down for the day, school officials said. Rumored for some time, the sickout is an effort to protest low salaries for teachers and support personnel in the state. Though a teacher raise of $1,000 was recently approved by the school board and an additional $1,000 supplement will be added next school year, school employees are supporting a statewide protest, members of the St. John Association of Educators said. St. John recently voted for a quarter-cent sales tax to give teachers the $2,000 salary raise. According to some concerned parents, there are some schools in the area that do not want to support the protest. They feel those schools should not be clumped in with the ones that do want a sickout. Though many schools have nearly 100 percent employee support of the protest, others have less than 10 percent participating in the sickout. Board Member Russ Wise said any school that does not want to participate should be encouraged to remain open. “Our job is to educate students, and any person who does not show up Monday without a legitimate reason, then shame on them,” he said. Wise also said he does not feel this is the right time for a protest, as it is close to time for LEAP testing. “Supporters of the protest are breaking faith with the people who voted to give them a raise,” he said. This protest comes at a time when school board members are actively seeking out a new superintendent. Though current Superintendent Chris Donaldson will remain in his position until the end of the school year, he announced his retirement last month. At a special meeting Thursday, the school board voted to advertise statewide for the position in all the major newspapers in the state. Though some board members wanted to hire a search firm for the job, the majority of the board agreed it would be best to conduct the search in-house. “I refuse to have anyone limit the number of people I can interview. I have to answer to every kid here,” said board member Clarence Triche. “If we get 30 or 40 applications, so what? That’s part of our job. If we get 100, we’ll do our job,” said board member Leroy Mitchell Sr. The board voted to conduct the search itself by placing ads in state newspapers and having the ads run for three weeks. After the ads run, applicants will have one week to get their applications in. All applications will be mailed to the school board office and kept unopened until all are received.