"I feel it is appropriate to speak up when there are topics that are being bandied about with little or no factual data to back them."
I feel it is appropriate to speak up when there are topics that are being bandied about with little or no factual data to back them. As we get closer to the school board races the amount of information, and in these cases, the amount of error, begins to mount up. This column is meant to clear the air with facts about specific issues and three specific candidates: Sheldon Cobb (District 3), Kermit Bouillion (District 5), and Mark Cockerham (District 7).
Issue One: The Community "100% IN 100% OUT" Community Turnaround Plan is beginning to work in spite of little support from a majority of the board. Even with the state administering more rigorous tests, scores are improving, dropout rates are being reduced, graduation cohort rates are improving, and discipline referrals are drastically reduced. In spite of those improvements, the majority of the board has abandoned support of the Turnaround Plan. Cobb, Bouillion, and Cockerham have stuck with the Turnaround Plan.
Issue Two: When the majority of the school board decided to fire Roger Hamilton, the very able and FREE assistant district attorney and hire the law firm of Hammonds and Sills to represent the board and district, they made a decision to hire a firm closely aligned with the Louisiana School Board Association (LSBA) and with an LPSS board member who is one of the current directors of that association, Ms. Rae Trahan. The reasons, in my opinion are quite evident. Act 1 and the superintendent of the Lafayette Parish School System were beginning to infringe on the good ol' boy politics and power of LSBA and the board members who have been the "ruling class" in the Lafayette Parish public education for years. The expected extra cost of this political move is $200,000. Cobb, Bouillion, and Cockerham voted against this measure.
Issue Three: A majority of the board passed an illegal resolution to begin a politically motivated "investigation" of the superintendent, one which the assistant district attorney had already dismissed for no cause. That same majority voted to hire yet another attorney to carry out the investigation. The attorney has been doing his work for months, and although required by the resolution to be paid on the basis of monthly invoices, he has yet to turn in any bill. The estimated additional legal cost could be upwards of $75,000. Cobb, Bouillion, and Cockerham voted against this measure.
Issue Four: A majority of the board attempted to force the superintendent to certify and send to the state Department of Education an unlawfully adopted budget that would have completely dismantled much of the Turnaround Plan while disproportionately harming the poor and minority students of the district. Cobb, Bouillion, and Cockerham voted against that budget.
Issue Five: The majority of the board refused to vote to give the staff needed and available funds to purchase basic textbooks and curricular materials for children and teachers, while all the while paying for unnecessary attorney fees. Cobb, Bouillion, and Cockerham were with the children and teachers.
Issue Six: The need for utilization of a small part of the rainy day fund, which totals over $70 million, to balance the budget without major cuts and to build new schools, was frowned upon by a majority of the board. They seemed to favor overcrowded schools and higher pupil teacher ratios. Cobb, Bouillion, and Cockerham were willing to use the fund to the extent necessary to avoid catastrophic cuts.
Issue Seven: The majority of the board was unwilling to allow the people to decide whether to help design and pass a tax referendum that could adequately address both the programmatic needs and the facility needs of the school district; thus, leaving the Lafayette Parish School System in a constant state of deficits. Cobb, Bouillion, and Cockerham were willing to at least explore the public mind-set on this important issue.
The message is this: Although it might feel good to say "throw them all out," it is not always wise to get into a state of hysteria so that the proverbial baby is thrown out with the bath water. Sometimes the good parts are worth keeping.