School board prepares challenge to state laws
By JEAN L. KAESS
Acts 1 and 2 of the 2012 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature were topics of conversation during the Thursday meeting of the St. Mary Parish School Board.
The board agreed to join other parishes in legally challenging Act 2, which provides state-funded scholarships for low-income students entering kindergarten and those in grades K-12 who attend C, D or F schools to enroll in state-approved nonpublic schools or A and B public schools outside their district or attendance zone.
Superintendent Donald Aguillard said the suit is designed to prevent Act 2 implementation and checks the constitutionality of using public dollars for private purposes.
The school districts challenging Act 2 will employ the law firm of Hammonds and Sills.
The board also hired the same law firm to represent them in a separate matter, but will not reveal the reason why the firm is being retained.
A resolution hiring Hammonds and Sills in Baton Rouge states the board is in need of “special counsel with experience, training, and expertise in school law issues including, but not limited to, special education, school personnel matters, public bid law and general school board policy matters involving compliance with the federal and state laws and regulations, including due process hearings, tenure hearings, misconduct investigations and the handling of administrative hearings and litigation in state and federal courts.”
The board’s current lawyer from the district attorney’s office said during the meeting that the board is in need of a lawyer with expertise in issues that he does not possess. After the meeting he would not state specifically what those were or why. Aguillard, after extensive questioning, said it could be about litigation in state and federal courts. He declined to state further what that litigation might be.
Board members denied having any knowledge of the purpose for hiring the attorney.
Act 1, among other things takes approval of sabbatical leave; advertisement for positions; hiring, appointment and termination of principals and teachers; and generally most personnel matters and places it in the hands of the superintendent. Previously all of these matters required board approval.
Aguillard told the board future agendas would include the same items listed as a matter of courtesy to “provide the same level of notice and public record that they are accustomed to,” but that they will not be actionable items.
In other action Thursday, the board:
—Held a 52-minute executive session to evaluate the superintendent’s job performance. Upon returning to regular session, Board President Roland Verret said Aguillard was rated “excellent” by the board.
—Learned sales tax collections are $486,000 under budget projections 11 months into the fiscal year. As of the end of May, the school system collected nearly $15.68 million.
—Approved the expenditure of $45,350 to install backflow preventers at five school sites in response to a City of Franklin ordinance requiring the devices.
—Authorized Aguillard to employ a maximum of five additional instructional/support personnel to fill unanticipated staffing needs in the coming school year.
—Approved a local service agreement between the St. Mary Parish Council and school board for a contribution to LaGrange Elementary School Karate Club.
All board members were present for Thursday’s meeting.