The Board of Directors for LSMSA held its first meeting, June 19, after Senate Bill 1 was sent to the Governor by the Secretary of the Senate. The bill, renaming the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts (LSMSA) after the late Jimmy D. Long Sr., will become law Aug. 1.
“I’ve assumed as members of the board you’ve been following this,” LSMSA Alumni Association President Jamie Smith said at the meeting. “Basically I’ve been carrying this hand grenade that has had the pin pulled out of it since Feb. 1. I think that’s the most accurate description I can give. When you carry a live grenade you can’t get lackadaisical and forget. This grenade has been kicked into your laps. SB 1 went to the Senate and we were given a little nod but this is not gonna die here, but the House. It went to the House and although we got a little bit warmer reception there, it got pushed to the floor. If you tuned in to what happened on the floor, it was utter chaos. It was not well thought out or executed.”
As far as the name change is concerned, no action is officially required by board at this point. The board will talk about possible changes at the September meeting.
An amendment to the bill allows LSMSA to continue to use its current name for all practical purposes as determined by the board. This was emphasized in a further section of the bill, which says nothing will require the school to make changes to the stationary, diplomas, transcripts, logos, insignia, license or branded merchandise, promotional and fundraising items or other related items or products including class rings, signage, all as determined by the board.
Smith said this amendment shouldn’t be considered as a compromise.
“From an alumni standpoint, we were asked several times about compromising,” he said. “Compromising is when two people give up what they want and come up with an agreement they can both live with. The people who brought this forward were never willing to not put Jimmy Long’s name on this and the alumni of the school were never willing to have our name changed for the school. It had nothing to do with Jimmy Long and everything with our school. There was no compromise. But ultimately the Alumni Association had to make a decision and as nice as it is to rally with the battle cry of ‘go big or go home,’ if you burn the house down and there’s no where to go home to, then what do you have left? And so ultimately the biggest decision was what is best for the school and what continues to allow the school to produce future alums. And so concessions were made and those concessions were not made to appease us, but to get the bill passed. Concessions that were agreed upon allowed the school to be in charge of its own destiny moving forward. And that is what this board’s responsibility is at this time. And if you look around this room you see some faces that you’ve not seen before that have eyes on the board. That’a a good thing in my opinion. I feel the board is very strong right now and very well equipped to handle this right now. Right now is a very sensitive and volatile time.”
The board focused on the fact that it would like to move froward in a proactive and deliberate way. Prudhomme Hall was built in the 50s and a new residency hall is what they need. They’re being looked over by students with great talent because of its condition. A Special Committee was formed and assigned to determine how the board will move forward in regards to SB1.
Dr. Larry Tremblay said it seems this situation wasn’t a very good example of the government working very well.
“Name a bill and I would make that same comment,” he said. “This whole session is a good example of government not running very well.”
He gave an example of a name change to a baseball stadium in Baton Rouge called Alex Box Stadium. “Skip Bertman Field” was added to the end of the stadium’s name, but Tremblay said that over the years he hasn’t heard anyone refer to it as the Skip Bertman Field at Alex Box Stadium. They always say they’re heading out to “The Box.”
“No matter what happens 10-20 years from now, people will still be saying LSMSA,” he said. “You can name it what you want but this is what people know it as and I think no matter what this board does going forward, to the people it’s LSMSA.”