Principals moves prompt disorder

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2004

By VICKIE JAMBON – Staff Reporter

RESERVE – Disorder broke out at the St. John the Baptist School Board meeting Thursday night leaving many people confused and many problems unsolved.

Arguing started when Superintendent Michael Coburn asked the board to cast one vote for five administration changes.

The position changes included moving Elton Oubre from being supervisor of the Safe & Drug Free Schools to being principal of West St. John High, moving Gail Creecy from being assistant principal at LaPlace Elementary to acting principal of LaPlace Elementary, moving Margaret Hastings from being assistant principal at Glade Middle to acting principal of East St. John Elementary, moving Willette Wallace from being principal at East St. John Elementary to being assistant principal of Glade Middle and moving Jerry Galloway from being assistant principal of LaPlace to being principal at West St. John High.

Coburn’s move to promote Jerry Galloway from assistant principal to principal and his move to demote Willette Wallace from principal to assistant principal was met with a split on the board and outbursts from the audience.

Board member, Matthew J. Ory said he did not think it was right to cast one vote for all five position changes. He felt the panel should vote on each reassignment separately.

Member, Dowie L. Gendson said there would be chaos if the Board picked and chose people individually. Russ Wise, another board member chipped in and agreed with Gendson saying,” In the last seven years our system has been basically unpolitical. In the last six months, I see politics creeping back into the school system. Politics and education don’t mix.”

More comments were made by the board before Gendson finally made a motion to table the appointments.

Individuals such as Ann Harvey, Art Smith and Dr. Ferdinand Wallace (Willette Wallace’s husband) came forward and voiced disapproval about the demotion of Wallace and the promotion of Galloway.

Ory, siding with the crowd, asked the Board to remove East St. John Elementary from the list and to allow the school to remain as it is. The substitute motion passed by one vote.

Ory later said East St.John Middle’s grades did not warrant removing its principal. “She’s done a great job over two years to bring up test scores,” said Ory.

Wise said Coburn considered more than grades in his decision to relocate Wallace.

Coburn threw his hands in the air and said if Wallace was not going to be moved then he no longer wished to change other positions. “Let everyone stay where they are,” said Coburn.

After a great deal of bickering back and forth, everything was tabled.

A second set of arguments arose when the Board voted to hire an outside tax collection agency named Assured Compliance, Inc.

The agency charges $38,500 per month or two percent of all taxes collected but not both at the same time.

The two-year contract could be canceled if need be with a 38 day advance notice.

Although the Board presently spends about the same amount of money to secure taxes, Board Member Clarence Triche said the outside auditor could make his people work harder and that the parish would see more money collected on taxes.

“We need the money and we need someone who will go out there and collect it,” Triche said.

Knowing this move would eliminate the present sales tax force from the Board, crowd members expressed concern for people’s jobs.

Art Smith said, “If people are not doing their jobs, get rid of them.”

The Board had planned on discussing a $2.7 million budget cut but decided such discussions would have to wait until the next meeting.

Job reassignments were supposed to eliminate certain positions that would have helped in cutting the budget.