Board discusses special elections, new calendar

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 29, 2002

By Christopher Lenois

RESERVE – Thursday night’s meeting of the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board introduced a number of new items that will call for the input of the community, potentially including the calling of two elections.

Superintendent Michael Coburn unveiled his plan to restructure the school system to place grades K-8 in the elementary schools. The goal being retention of students who typically leave public schools after sixth grade to attend private or parochial institutions. The plan would be rolled out over the course of three years, starting with the 2002-2003 school year, and would come at an estimated cost of almost $5 million.

Coburn and Finance Director Felix Boughton emphasized that the plan would be financed without the need for new taxes, but would require the vote of the public.

Coburn announced that he would be holding two public forums to discuss the matter. The first at LaPlace Elementary tonight at 7 p.m., and another at West St. John Elementary on Wednesday, April 3 at 7 p.m.

Boughton also introduced a resolution that would renew the 10.57 mills property tax that will expire in 2003. The tax renewal also requires the calling of a special election, and Boughton felt that including both items in the same special election would save the board money by “killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.”

The board unanimously approved the resolution to advertise for bids for products and supplies in the 2002-03 school year, including bread, milk, processed foods, frozen foods, meat/meat products, cleaning supplies, paper supplies and small equipment for cafeterias. Board members Russ Wise, Clarence Triche, and Leroy Mitchell, Sr., were absent from the vote.

Under Old Business items, the board unanimously approved the estimated $1.1 million budget for the Head Start program for the 2002-03 school year, which was presented by Josie Clement, Director of the St. John Child Development center.

Matthew Ory of District 10, reported that the Discipline Committee had their initial meeting, and each member will be seeking input from their respective sites and the public in reviewing the Student Handbook. Ory said the next meeting will be on Thursday, April 11 at 4:30 pm.

Asst. Superintendent Wilbert Ocmond introduced the 2002-03 school calendar. The calendar has staff development days planned each month that will result in a one-hour late start of the school day. Teachers from LaPlace Elementary were on hand to express their concern over the new policy, contending that their students are more receptive to learning in the morning when they are fresh. LaPlace Elementary principal, Dr. Courtney Millet said she had voiced her faculty’s concern at the principal’s meeting, but agreed to try the new schedule.

Coburn said the staff development time we part of the “aggressive approach to bettering the school system.” Which he acknowledged is an ongoing process of trial and error.

“If something doesn’t work. I can tell you we’ll change it,” said Coburn.

Also of concern to the faculty at LaPlace Elementary was the three-hour time reduction of parent-teacher conferences. Teacher Margaret Hastings said the give-and-take with parents at their school could actually warrant an whole additional day of conferences. Ocmond reiterated that the new calendar contained experiments and changes could be amended for next year.

Other board members, including board chairman Dr. Gerald Keller and District 9 rep. Lowell Bacas, who was formerly the principal at LaPlace Elementary, voiced their concerns that special consideration might be made for the school.

“If something’s going on that’s really good at LaPlace, we might add an addendum for them.”

While the calendar passed unanimously, some board members made sure to express their reticence.

“We are adopting something that the administration has recommended. Don’t say this is the School Board’s calendar, it’s the administrations. We’re just a rubber stamp.”

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for April 4 at 6 p.m.