School board term limits approved

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 10, 2012

By David Vitrano


Voters across the River Parishes have approved a measure imposing term limits on local school board members.

The bill, which appeared on the ballots in St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles parishes, states that beginning with elections next year, members of local school boards can be elected to a maximum of three consecutive terms. Although the measure appeared on the ballot in most parishes across the state, its effects were localized, with only the votes within a particular parish determining the fate of that parish’s school board.

In St. John Parish, more than 79 percent of voters favored the measure. Only a slightly smaller margin of voters favored the measure in St. James Parish, where more than 75 percent checked “yes.” Meanwhile, more than 80 percent of St. Charles Parish voters favored the measure.

School boards in the River Parishes have several members that have served multiple terms. They will also undergo district changes in the next election in 2014 due to the 2010 census, which may result in some in-cumbents running against each other and others retiring or choosing not to run.

In St. John Parish, only Sherry De-francesch and Rodney Nicholas are in their first term. In St. James Parish, no board member faced opposition during the last e-lection cycle, so every board member in that parish is serving at least their second term. And in St. Charles Parish, only Arthur Aucoin and Melinda Bernard are in their first term. Board members Clarence Savoie and John Smith have served since 1986 and 1982, respectively.

According to the bill, however, the length of one’s school board career prior to the passing of the bill is in-consequential, so any standing member of a local school board will still be eligible for three more consecutive four-year terms.

Regarding the proposal, the Public Affairs Research Council states, “School board members in Lou-isiana tend to serve multiple terms, particularly in rural areas or small communities where it is hard to find people willing to run. The problem is that this kind of lengthy service can lead to a mindset of ‘we’ve always done things this way’ that discourages new ideas. Setting up term limits would build change into the governing systems of local school districts.”