Tempers flare at School Board over $2.1 million employee payment

Michelle Stuckey
October 14, 2011 at 9:07 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Tempers flared last Wednesday at a St. Charles Parish School Board meeting in which the board approved a one-time payment of $1,000 to all full-time employees and $500 to all part-time employees. The payment will go out in the Nov. 20 payroll checks and will cost the district $2.1 million.

Members voted unanimously to approve the revised budget which included the one-time payment, but the topic resulted in a heated discussion about protocol and performance scores.

Many members of the board said they felt the payment was needed because employees have not received a pay increase in four years, but Board President Ellis Alexander had some concerns regarding the schools’ performance.

Board member Melinda Huff-Bernard said that the public has told her that school district employees do an excellent job but do not make enough money, so she thinks that the public would agree with this decision.

Superintendent Rodney Lafon agreed that the board should approve the payment.

“I think what the board is doing is the right thing,” Lafon said.

But Board President Ellis Alexander disagreed, citing that recently-released performance scores show the district still has much work to do and asking what employees had done to earn the payment in addition to their regular salary.

“If a child came home with Bs and Cs on their report card, I don’t know many parents that would reward that child,” Alexander said, referencing the fact that all parish schools received either a B or C.

The discussion resulted in other members of the board insisting that Alexander relinquish his seat as president.

“I don’t have a problem relinquishing the chair…but I don’t think that’s necessary,” Alexander said. “I just wanted to point out some facts - that’s all I’m doing, I’m not trying to sway anyone’s vote.”

Ultimately, Alexander voted in favor of the revised budget.

“I specifically wanted Dr. Lafon’s recommendation because I think it’s the duty of the superintendent to tell us how well we’re doing and not a board member, and it’s the duty of the superintendent to make that recommendation,” Alexander said. “With that in mind, I’ll support this.”

At the end of the meeting, there were further disagreements between Alexander and Lafon about a presentation on performance scores which led the two to repeatedly claim the other was out of order.

Alexander believed some information in the presentation was incorrect and stopped the presentation to clarify, insisting that the information was different from what the Department of Education released.

“Where do you think she got (the information) from?” Lafon yelled. “You need to listen and maybe you’ll learn something.”

When Alexander banged the gavel to call Lafon out of order, Lafon retorted, “You can bang that thing all you want.” Alexander then ordered the officer on duty to escort Lafon from the room if he did not behave.

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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