Building tensions finally spill over

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 11, 2009

By David Vitrano

LAPLACE—Tensions that have been building between St. John school board members and Superintendent Courtney Millet over hiring practices boiled over at last Thursday’s School Board meeting.

For at least the last two months, some school board members have voiced some concern at the meetings and registered their displeasure over recent hiring practices with their votes. On Thursday, however, what was a trickle became a flood as Board Vice President Patrick Sanders repeatedly questioned Millet over the recent hiring of a new secretary at East St. John High School.

The secretary, it seems, was hired as a replacement for an employee who is out on leave. She was not hired as a temporary replacement, however, and when the employee on leave returns, both of them will remain employed within the school system. Millet justified this decision by saying enrollment numbers necessitate an increase in the number of school secretaries throughout the system anyway.

Sanders was still unhappy with the way the position was added, though, and said the matter should have been brought before the board’s personnel and finance committees before the position was added.

Said Sanders, “By not going before the Personnel Committee and the Finance Committee, you’re slipping it through the door.”

When Millet defended her actions by saying the matter was being brought before the board at the present time, Sanders retorted, “They may be slipping through the front door, but they’re slipping in.”

Sanders ultimately seemed to give in on the matter, saying, “Let’s go with it because you’re going to do what you want anyway.”

Board Member Albert Burl, who has been very vocal in his discomfort with the hiring practices then began to question Director of Human Resources Leigh Ann Beard over whether the employee on leave was being paid during the leave, but Board President Gerald Keller stopped her from answering the questions, saying the public forum was not the correct time to address such a personnel question.

Burl said, “It’s a common sense question…We’re paying a portion of her salary.”

“Funds are being spent incorrectly,” he added.

Burl was also unhappy that some bus drivers had driven their route that day—it was the first day of school in St. John—without first having been approved by the board.

During the course of the heated debate, Board Member Keith Jones asked Keller to call a five minute recess numerous times to let tempers cool, but he refused.

Ultimately, all matters were passed by the board.