March 5, 2014 05:41

The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?

 [Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect new information from state Rep. Nancy Landry.]

"I know we're all looking forward to the next elections, but in case it doesn't work out how we want, I think we need to have this insurance policy on the shelf," says Rep. Nancy Landry of her House Bill 980.  

State Rep. Nancy Landry's House Bill 980 would give Lafayette Parish the option to do away with the school system's existing structure of governance by replacing elected board members with appointees.

While that's one possibility, Landry says it's not the intention of her bill. The intention, she says, is to give Lafayette Parish more options on how its school board operates.

"Lafayette Parish is in a perpetual cycle of looking forward to a new school board. We get a new board, and then within a couple years our hopes are dashed because they start engaging in the same behavior," says Landry.

Landry's bill, however, has a long road to go before becoming a viable option, starting with 10,000 signatures from residents, followed by the creation of a commission to look into the matter. The commission would then make a recommendation, such as doing away with an elected school board, which would then go before the voters of the parish.

While replacing elected board members with appointees is one option, Landry's bill could also allow for a number of different scenarios, such as increasing or decreasing the number of school board members, or allowing for the addition of several at-large members who would represent not just one district but the parish as a whole. It also could allow for a mixture of elected and appointed board members, or a staggering of the election cycles for the board's elected members so that the full board wouldn't  be up for reelection at the same time.

"It seems our school board has always been dominated by special interests, and our board members are more focused on those special interests than the children," says Landry during a recent interview with The IND. "My legislation would allow us to empanel a commission that would allow us to look at alternative forms of governance. Even if it's just tweaking what we have, or providing more checks and balances on what we have to provide for more parental involvement, it would give us some flexibility and other options. I know we're all looking forward to the next elections, but in case it doesn't work out how we want, I think we need to have this insurance policy on the shelf."

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