Tempers flare over Lutcher Elementary roof

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 13, 2013

By David Vitrano

LUTCHER – Debra Bartley, who brought complaints about the state of Lutcher Elementary School to the St. James Parish School Board at its last meeting, remained critical of the district’s response during a meeting of the Building Committee Thursday.
Her remarks came after custodial chief Terry McCreary ran through a list of completed and in-progress work orders at the school. His work orders contained nothing related to the roof of the school, her primary complaint.
Citing the report on the roof made as part of the recent assessment by Vanir for the district’s long-range plan, she said, “Why are we going through all of this when the roof needs to be replaced? Those children are being subjected to environmental issues.”
By way of an explanation on the process through which work orders are submitted and larger projects are handled — most public bodies have similar restrictions — Superintendent Alonzo Luce said, “We respond to work orders. If we don’t go through a process, and a work order is not put in, we don’t have a way to solve (the problems).”
Luce added that the lack of a decision on the roof was not based on finances.
“I feel very comfortable with being able to maintain our schools in an excellent manner,” he said.
At this point, Bartley said there was another underlying cause of the seeming neglect at the mostly African-American school.
“It’s just aggravating,” she said. “We have to start being honest. The main problem is a racial issue.”
George Nassar, head of the Building Committee, stepped in at this point, calling the meeting to order and saying, “Obviously this is going to go downhill quick.”
He added, “None of my decisions are based on race.”
Ultimately, Nassar directed McCreary to obtain a thorough report on the roof so the School Board could make a well-informed decision on how to proceed.
In other action, the Building Committee decided to involve the entire board concerning modifications to the district’s contract with custodial services company Aramark.
Since November 2010, Aramark has been in charge of custodial services at St. James High School and Gramercy Elementary School. According to Aramark representative Terrance Ransfer, since the company’s arrival, its satisfaction rating has been around 95 percent.
Now the district is asking Aramark to take over custodial duties at Lutcher High School and the neighboring School Board complex. The current contract is for $17,544 per month, and Aramark is asking for an additional $28,678 per month — bringing the total to $46,222 per month — to take on the additional responsibilities. That figure includes added management duties in the district.
At Nassar’s suggestion, the proposed changes will be sent to the entire School Board so it can consider the matter at its meeting Tuesday.
Also, the Building Committee heard from Lutcher High School Athletic Director Tim Detillier regarding the district’s concession stands. He said a permit will have to be secured before the stand can reopen for football season. The state now requires concession stands that prepare food on site to secure permits similar to those of a restaurant.
The Building Com mittee agreed to set up a meeting with a representative from the state to lay out the procedure in black in white to ensure the stand could be up and running in time for football season.
Lastly, the Building Committee agreed to recommend the School Board enter into a contract with Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Gramercy to lease some classroom and playground space to house overflow from Gramercy Elementary School as new classrooms are being constructed there. The deal is for six classrooms, two bathrooms and some playground area for $4,960 per month.
Although construction at the school is on schedule, some classrooms are not set to be completed until November. The additional space at the school is needed because the district is doubling the size of the magnet program at Gramercy Elementary in the upcoming school year. The lease agreement runs from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31, with a monthly renewal option thereafter.