Millet says ‘No new taxes!’

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 24, 2008


News Editor

RESERVE—St. John Parish Superintendent Courtney Millet had one message for the parents, teachers and workers gathered in the Fifth Ward Elementary School cafeteria Friday morning: The bond proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot will result in no new taxes for anyone in the parish.

“It is not a new tax,” she declared as she explained the way the school board would attain the funding necessary to complete the proposed educational and facilities plan for the St. John school system.

She went on to explain that the parish would just be spending existing tax dollars in a new way. St. John has the lowest school millage out of the River Region and St. Tammany.

Millet has spent the past week speaking at schools in an effort to sell the voters on the issue, which will be decided at the polls on Super Tuesday.

The school plan has recently received the endorsement of a number of local leaders—Sheriff Wayne Jones, Assessor Whitney Joseph, seven council members, a number of St. John Parish ministers and the Belle Terre Civic Association—a fact about which Millet is clearly ecstatic.

The crowd of mostly mothers listened intently as Millet explained the details of the new plan, which, aside from facility upgrades at each school in the parish, also includes universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds.

Additionally, the plan includes a redirection of eight mills to be invested in interest-generating funds. The interest from that will go toward health care and salary increases for employees as well as money for continued academic improvements.

She also explained the importance of having a plan for the system in general, likening it to the lesson plans teachers must prepare daily to have a successful class.

Although Millet’s presentation was similar to the one she delivered to the school board last week, she tailored her comments to the audience as well, explaining the importance of parental support in the success of the school system.

“I truly believe that if I explain the plan and that it is not a new tax, people will get behind it,” said Millet.

Board Member Patrick Sanders, who was also in attendance, kept his comments brief, but clearly wanted to impress upon the parents that they should act in the best interest of their children.

“Thank you for coming out to represent your children,” he said.

Those present at the meeting mostly backed up Sanders’ wishes.

One parent, Rachel White, said, “I just wanted to participate for my child,” while grandparent Anna Marie Jones offered,” I’ve always been involved in school matters. School doesn’t stop when they leave the classroom. Anything we can do to help, we’re there for [my grandson].”

At the community breakfast, parents also learned of some other initiatives being taken to improve the academic environment at Fifth Ward.

Parents watched a video about an educational leader from New York, Lorraine Monroe, who has made a name for herself by taking disadvantaged public school children and turning them into student who can compete with top scholars across the nation.

Monroe visited Fifth Ward this week and met with all teachers at the school to discuss the good and bad points of their teaching styles.

Many of Monroe’s suggestions have already been implemented in the Saturday demonstration classrooms held in the parish.