The first order of business at the School Board meeting Thursday night, Jan. 17, was to elect a president and vice president of the board. Rhonda Guidroz and Steven Harris were nominated for President and Guidroz won with a 6:4 vote (Tankeia Palmer, Dorothy McGaskey, Katrina Willis, Emile Metoyer, and Harris voted no).
Billy Benefield and Harris were then nominated for vice president but Harris declined the nomination.
Metoyer immediately called it a “black, white situation” and called out Eugean Garner for calling all the white board members to ask if they would support Guidroz, but none of the minority members. Correcting Metoyer, Garner said he didn’t call Beverly Broadway.
“I’m going to work along with everybody so this board can stop being devisive,” said Harris.
Guidroz thanked everyone for their support. “I’m hoping we can work together,” she said. “We are in this for the children of the parish. Not for any personal agendas, not for any racial agenda. Not for anything except the children. If we as a board cannot conduct business with that as our primary goal then we need to resign. I would hope I have a good enough relationship and would like to develop a relationship with all of the board members in this coming year and get some things accomplished rather there being a split on the board.”
Newly elected board member Reba Phelps said she’d like to go on record as saying she did not vote according to skin color. “I never have and I never will,” she said.
McGaskey, another newly elected board member said, “I hope this indicates that we’ll be able to work together and I’ve been to a lot of school board meetings previous to coming on board and it seems like the Natchitoches Parish School Board has a history of voting along racial lines and it needs to stop because I hate to say ‘black-white issues’ but we’re dealing with a large majority of minorities in the school system and they need to be considered as number one priority.”
Another hot topic issue at the meeting was an agenda item to consider approving the transfer of BRE (building and repair expense) money from Cloutierville to Provencal based on percentages. Metoyer withdrew his support when he realized the money was intended not just for school supplies as he originally thought, but also to add on to the Provencal building to create four new classrooms. There were 125 kids when Cloutierville was closed and about 90 of them went to Provencal.
Metoyer asked why Cloutierville couldn’t be reopened if space was an issue. He also said that small children are being bussed for too long to get from the South of the parish to Provencal. He suggested a meeting needs to be held at Cloutierville to see how many parents would be interested in sending their child there if the school was reopened.
The board voted to move $10,000 for school supplies instead of the original recommendation of about $280,000 and table voting on the rest of the money until March so they can evaluate the feasibility of reopening Cloutierville.
The School Board also received an explanation of the current truancy policy and the process that’s taken when someone is referred to the truancy officer. Vanesa Stanfield and Sam Shields work for the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office and handle truancy cases for the school district. This year they have received and processed over 400 referrals. Stanfield said she’s already encountered 25-30 families where abuse of a doctors excuse has become an issue for grades K-6.
Other agenda items included:
Approve School Activity Fund Audit for 2017-2018
Approve distribution of one-time MFP appropriations: $583 for all certified personnel and $250 for all other support staff. Benefield motioned that the Council amend this agenda item to raise the amount for other support staff to $300. This was passed by the board, however Benefield, Phelps and Harris had to recuse themselves from the vote because they have immediate family members that work for the school district.
Approve resolution to adopt the Louisiana Compliance Questionnaire for Audit Engagements of Goverments.
Reject all bids and give permission to re-advertise for new bids for asbestos abatement and demolition of Old Magnet School, and playground equipment at Fairview Alpha and Goldonna. All three bids needed to be reworded.
Receive and approve transportation report, tax commission report, budget update and personnel update.
Discuss parliamentary procedures to use yays/nays instead of a roll call vote to approve agenda items unless the item warrants the clarity provided by a roll call vote.