$2.6M from BP directed to St. John Parish Schools

Published 12:12 am Saturday, August 22, 2015

LAPLACE — There seems to be a ray of sunshine for the St. John the Baptist Parish School District thanks to a check for more than $2.6 million.

Daniel Becnel

Daniel Becnel

Superintendent Kevin George and School Board President Keith Jones received a check Thursday for $2,656,222.46 from the Becnel Law Firm. The check, given by founding partner Daniel Becnel, was money for the BP oil spill case.

The Deepwater Horizon, or BP, oil spill occurred April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sunk, killing 11 people. The devastation led to an oil spill that lasted for 87 days.

“BP put up the money, and we made an application for the parish school board to get a part of it,” Becnel said. “(The settlement) was $18 billion. It went to five states: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas. A lot of the money went to coastal erosion and to replenish the marsh lands.”

Becnel, who said he is a friend of President Obama, sent a recommendation to the White House on how to handle the BP disaster. Becnel said the president followed the recommendation.

According to Becnel, his law firm was the first to file suit against BP. Later, Becnel said, he filed suit on behalf of St. John the Baptist School Board.

The timing of the money seems perfect.

“As many people know we had a recent fire at one of our elementary schools,” Jones said.

“These funds couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Students from East St. John Elementary are currently displaced after a fire on the schools campus caused serious damage Aug. 14.

The School District hopes to move the students into the former Leon Godchaux Junior High campus by the end of the month.

Becnel said BP wants to settle this case, which led to the financial agreement.

“When you want to settle a case, you have to pay money to get releases or we would go to trial,” Becnel said.

Jones said Becnel’s law firm has represented the St. John School Board for the last decade for every lawsuit.

George said anytime school leaders receive unexpected funds it helps because the money goes straight to students.

“Everything that we do, we try to better the educational system of the parish,” George aid. “Anytime we can bring in extra dollars, that means our kids get better and more advanced facilities. So anything that comes in helps the total education of the child.”

— By Raquel Derganz Baker