Correction: School Board, ABC clarify Northside track rings

by Heather Miller

UPDATE: State rep. Rickey Hardy didn't do all of his homework - but he wasn't incorrect in his assertions that someone intended to use a $5,000 donation from Acadiana Bottling Co. to purchase rings for Northside High's state champion boys and girls track teams.

UPDATE: State Rep. Rickey Hardy should have done a little more digging before firing off accusations of misappropriation when it came to a $5,000 donation given to Northside High School by Acadiana Bottling Co.

But the Democratic state lawmaker who seldom holds his tongue wasn't wrong when he said the 2010 boys and girls track teams from Northside High were told they would be receiving championship rings for bringing home two state titles in their respective divisions.

The following is the response from the Lafayette Parish school system to Hardy's accusations of mishandling donations, which were highlighted in the original blog post at the bottom of this page:

The company and Northside signed a contract in June 2006 that included annual support to the school, to be spent at the principal's discretion. Also included in the contract was $5,000 to pay for championship rings for that year's basketball team, as well as $2,500 to pay for a sign for the gym commemorating that year's basketball championship.

That donation for championship rings was only for the first year of the contract, which again was signed in June 2006.

It currently is 2011, which is year five of the contract in question. During year five, the contract states, the school will receive annual funding to be spent at the discretion of the principal "to benefit Northside High."

Acadiana Bottling has been a longtime supporter of LPSS and the school system is grateful for their continued support.

Minutes after The Ind received the school system's response, we also received the following press release from Acadiana Bottling General Manager Marcel Bulliard. The release affirms the statement from LPSS, but the company goes further in explaining how the request for the annual donation was made and what the money was initially intended to fund:

Acadiana Bottling has enjoyed a long standing contractual agreement with Northside High School as well as other Lafayette Parish Public Schools.  Our contract provides the schools, including Northside High School, with an annual cash payment to be used by the school at the discretion of the principal for the benefit of the school.

Payments under the contract were made to Northside High School at the direction of the principal.  In 2010, Acadiana Bottling received a request from Northside principal, Mr. Handy, for a $5,000.00 payment under the contract which Mr. Handy expressed he intended to use for the purchase of championship rings for the track team.  Acadiana Bottling made the $5,000.00 contractual payment after Mr. Handy was no longer the principal at Northside and the payment was received by the school's then acting principal.

In responding to Mr. Handy's request it was not the intention of Acadiana Bottling to do anything other than make a payment pursuant to the contract following the principal's request.  No special earmarks were attached to these funds.  The payments were made subject to the provisions of the contract and to be utilized at the discretion of the principal.

Original Story: When Northside High School's boys and girls outdoor track teams both brought home state championship titles in 2010, Acadiana Bottling Co. offered a big congratulations in the way of a $5,000 donation to the school for each track team member to receive a commemorative championship ring.

It's been six months since Acadiana Bottling cut the check, according to state Rep. Rickey Hardy, and Northside's championship runners have yet to receive those rings despite the money being deposited into Northside's account.

Hardy says a Northside school administrator told parents that the check was not given specifically for rings. But after reviewing a copy of the check, Hardy says misappropriation is one word to describe Northside's actions thus far in not delivering to the student athletes.

"Someone is stealing from these students," Hardy says. "It's the grinch who stole their championship rings."

The Democratic state rep. sent a letter Thursday to Superintendent of Schools Burnell Lemoine asking for answers. He also sent copies of the letter to each School Board member and the acting principal of Northside.

Hardy learned of the donation scandal in March, he says, but waited almost six months before inquiring about the check to see if the rings would surface. He has yet to receive any response from central office, he says.

LPSB marketing director Angie Simoneaux says the school system will release a response to Hardy's letter Monday afternoon.