May 22, 2014 05:49 PM
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The reaction of one member of the LPSB to a community feedback initiative wasn't what you'd expect from a community leader who's supposed to be accountable to the voters.

 
Photo by Robin May 
LPSB's Mark Allen Babineaux 

The reaction of one member of the Lafayette Parish School Board to a community feedback initiative wasn't what you'd expect from a community leader who's supposed to be accountable to the voters.

Project Involve is an initiative of the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council to spark public feedback on how school board members handle themselves during meetings: Were they acting in a professional manner? Do board members appear informed during meetings? Are board members backing up their stances with data and research? When differences of opinion arise, do board members act respectfully? Do board member actions illustrate a commitment to the education of Lafayette Parish students?

These are just a few of the questions included in the LaPESC survey, which describes the project as being "created to bridge the gap between the Board and the community by increasing public awareness of the role of the Board in impacting the education of our community's youth and by increasing public confidence in the Board and school system."

Board member Mark Allen Babineaux, however, doesn't like the idea one bit. He's specifically perturbed that the survey doesn't include Superintendent Pat Cooper and that the school system is a member of LaPESC, though the group serves no political function other than organizing a set of forums for school board candidates come election season. Essentially, LaPESC's mission is to foster a better school system for the students of Lafayette Parish.

What Babineaux conveniently forgets is that he and his fellow board members are elected, while Cooper is appointed by the board, which means he is accountable to the board. The board members, on the other hand, are, in theory at least, accountable to the voters of Lafayette Parish.

When LaPESC presented its survey during Wednesday's meeting, Babineaux called it an exercise in "propaganda," saying the public's opinion on such matters should just be relegated to each meeting's public comments period.

Seriously?

Making Babineaux's opposition to the surveys even more suspect is his stance on the investigation of Cooper, and the reluctance of him and his fellow board members to divulge their reasons for requesting the probe of the superintendent. State law clearly stipulates that for a board to hire a law firm for such an investigation it must list the reasons, and a cost estimate for the endeavor. The issue was even addressed again during Wednesday's meeting through a resolution introduced by the board's only supporters of Cooper - board members Kermit Bouillion, Shelton Cobb and Mark Cockerham. They want the board to spell out what it's looking for to justify the expense.

Yet the board's majority, those deadset on a pointless investigation that is no more than a waste of taxpayer dollars, denied the request from Bouillion, Cobb and Cockerham.

All of which makes LaPESC's survey all the more relevant.

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