Board suggests policy revisions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 20, 2009

By David Vitrano


RESERVE — The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board recently approved the bulk of a stack of new policies given to them for review at the board’s first meeting in October.

The policies covered everything from employee leave to electronic communications between students and employees to the administration of medication in the district’s public schools.

A pair of the policies did require a second look by some of the board members, however.

One of these addressed the issuance of employment permits for students under the age of 18.

The policy put before the board states employment certificates be issued for students during vacation and after school hours and are issued by the central office.

Board member Russ Wise wished to amend the policy to stipulate students must maintain a “C” average or higher to be issued such a certificate.

“Folks, we are in the education business,” Wise said. “I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we as a school board set a standard.”

Wise included as part of his motion a clause that stated allowances could be made for special situations, but the rest of the board did not feel the acceptance clause sufficient.

Ultimately, his motion was not seconded and, therefore, not put up for a vote.

One of the members who opposed the amendment, Keith Jones, said, “Every situation is different. Some kids have to work. … What we don’t want to do is create a situation where the dropout rate rises.”

Wise expressed his displeasure at the decision, stating he felt the board was often reluctant to change simply because things had always been done that way.

The second policy to be questioned by a board member dealt with monetary limits set for supplies and services at which the board must seek bids. The current threshold stands at $20,000 for materials and supplies, meaning if the board wishes to spend over $20,000 for materials or supplies, they must advertise for bids for the project. The revised policy sought to raise that limit to $30,000.

Board Member Albert Burl III said he thought the amount should remain at $20,000.

Wise agreed, saying, “This ain’t our money. We need to be as transparent as we can.”

Felix Boughton, executive director of business and finance, then explained the increase was merely to keep up with inflation. He went on to say not raising the limit could hinder the speed at which materials can be acquired.

The Finance Committee had met earlier in the day and agreed with Boughton’s assessment.

Boughton also explained the school system’s expenditures are public record so the claim of a lack of transparency was a false one.

Speaking from her year’s of experience as a school principal, Superintendent Courtney Millet agreed with Boughton, saying sometimes a couple of days can make a huge difference.

Despite the protests, the motion passed by a vote of 6-5, and the rate of $20,000 remained.

Wise said a policy exists for emergency situations such as the ones Boughton and Millet were describing.

“I answer to a lot of people who pay taxes. Our current system works well. … We need to be more visible to the people that pay the bills,” he said.