Pastorek proposal meets resistance in St. James

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 16, 2009


LUTCHER — Trustees of the St. James Parish Schools joined in the fray Tuesday night, unanimously passing a resolution that essentially tells State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek to keep his nose out of their business.

Pastorek, after firing the first volley last month in what is turning into a statewide battle, says the state’s school board system is “screwed up” and is pushing a string of new regulations for board members.

On Tuesday, St. James board member Kenneth Foret introduced an emergency resolution rejecting Pastorek’s proposals.

The proposed regulations, which include, among other things, term limits for board members, eliminating their monthly salaries, and giving superintendents sole authority to hire and fire and sign contracts removes the system of checks and balances that is needed, said board vice president George Nassar.

“We need those checks and balances,” he said. “The direction we’re going in is the privatization of the public schools … and there has already been discussion of taking money from public schools and giving them to charter schools.”

Pastorek disagrees and says allowing local school board members to get involved in hiring and firing of school personnel is a “recipe for disaster.”

“Superintendents need to have the ability to move personnel in and out of positions, to move personnel from one campus to another,” Pastorek said.

“And they need to do it without the political pressures of local school board members,” Pastorek said.

Under current law, local board members can serve indefinitely. They can collect up to $800 per month for their service and face no minimum degree requirements, such as a high school diploma or its equivalent.

But board member Richard Reulet pointed out that Pastorek does not have an education background.

“The superintendent at least needs to be an educator,” he said. “You can be a janitor and if you’re good enough for the governor, you can be appointed. Maybe we need to get the legislature to establish minimum requirements for the superintendent and make them have an education background.”

In other business, board members heard a report regarding the district’s dual enrollment program. Out of the current senior students in the district, 63 percent (95) of 152 seniors at Lutcher High will graduate with at least three college level hours while 58 percent (53) of the 92 seniors at St. James High will reach that level.

The district’s goal is to have every student earn at least three post-secondary hours — either traditional or technical — by the end of the 2011-2012 school year.

Earlier, board member Patricia Schexnayder was critical of the work done by the school calendar committee because she said there had not been enough involvement by teachers.

“The teachers should be involved,” she told Gaynell Albert, who presented the calendar to the board. “It affects them and the students more than it does anyone else.”

Albert tried unsuccessfully to explain the procedure several times, pointing out, “We did make changes because of teacher feedback.”

But Schexnayder was relentless and, in the end, a committee was formed to review the work of the calendar committee and ensure sufficient teacher input is used to develop the calendar.

The board also approved payment in the amount of $71,459.25 to Plaas, Inc. for HVAC systems for five gymnasiums. The payment leaves about $50,000 outstanding. Also approved was a payment of $69,753.75 to Lamar Contractors, Inc. for a new gymnasium at Lutcher High.