St. John benefits from relationships between School Board, businesses

Published 12:03 am Saturday, July 16, 2016

It was suggested six weeks ago on this page that business leaders in St. John the Baptist Parish and School Board members should work together to better serve local students.

Thankfully, an effort is underway to serve that purpose.

School Board Member Russ Wise is asking his fellow School Board members to amend policy and add two new members to the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board Finance Committee. He suggests adding a representative from the River Region Chamber of Commerce and St. John Parish Business Association.

“What kind of brought (this measure) to a head was our failure this year to pass the sales tax increase,” Wise told L’OBSERVATEUR this week. “The tax vote came at the worst possible time, because the state just had a sales tax increase and there were a couple of other things on the ballot that pretty much said this was not going to happen.

“If you make your friends before you need them, if we can reach out to the business community in particular, then they are more likely to support tax increases, spending changes or whatever may come up that they are aware of and can participate in.”

It’s a common sense approach to consensus building and an absolute necessity when dealing with public bodies, elected officials and the will of fickle voters.

Local children and parents are clearly caught in a perception and support battle that has engulfed St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools. The turmoil has led to funding concerns at a time when the School District is showing growth but lacks widespread community support.

“Most of the movers and shakers, the people who pay the taxes and run the businesses, rarely send their kids to public schools,” Wise said. “Because of that, public schools have always been kind of left behind.”

Just this summer, the School Board denied an application from Louisiana Premier Charter School to operate in St. John Parish.

Charter School Leader Alison Andrews said she was approached more than a year ago by businesspeople who felt more options were needed.

The charter school’s board members include Mark Roussel as president, Patrick Hymel as vice president and Lucien Gauff as treasurer. Business supporters named in the application or mentioned to School Board members included Evonik Garyville, Matrix Service, Roussel Tire and Car Care, Louisiana Cat and Sean Doody State Farm.

The tax vote this year and the charter school effort highlight division between the business community and public school system. Any effort that gets representatives from each at the same table is one we should all support.