Board may pay into Medicare
Major changes to medical insurance for retirees, expanding the gifted program at Wildwood Elementary and new anti-bullying rules for students are on the agenda for a special East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting Monday night.
Normally, the School Board holds a committee meeting on the first Thursday of the month, but it was canceled because of the July Fourth holiday.
Instead, the board is tackling several items Monday at a 5 p.m. special meeting at the School Board Office, 1050 S. Foster Drive. And unlike a committee meeting, the board’s votes Monday will be final.
At the top of the agenda is a proposal to discontinue offering supplemental health insurance to almost 2,700 retired employees. Instead, the School Board is considering paying money into Medicare for retirees, saving an estimate $8.7 million a year in the process.
School officials argue that the affected retirees will receive similar, or perhaps even better, coverage than they do now. The move won’t affect the estimated 2,000 retirees who are ineligible for Medicare.
The school system is trying to keep its self-insured employee medical coverage program in the black. If approved, the changes would take effect Jan. 1.
School officials had planned to vote on the changes June 21, but held off in hopes of getting more feedback from retirees. The board held a special meeting June 28 for that purpose, but attendance was light.
The School Board plans to consider Monday expanding the gifted program at Wildwood Elementary, 444 Halfway Tree Road.
Wildwood is one of 16 elementary schools in the school system that offers gifted services, but only four schools offer both gifted and talented services that employ self-contained classes as opposed to less expensive resource or “pull-out” style instruction.
Wildwood now has 21 gifted students receiving resource instruction. Last year, the school’s official enrollment was 544 students.
In a letter to the board Friday, new Superintendent Bernard Taylor suggested offering self-contained gifted services just to kindergartners to keep costs down.
Only three incoming kindergartners in the Wildwood attendance zone passed gifted screening for the fall term. To make the program financially viable, Taylor said, the school system would try to recruit 14 more gifted-level kindergartners by the start of school Aug. 8.
Taylor, however, said that by the 2013-14 school year, he’d like more self-contained classrooms in more grades at Wildwood.
Wildwood’s zone includes 140 gifted students, but most go to other gifted schools — with Buchanan Elementary, located near LSU, getting 64, the largest share.
In an unpopular move a year ago, students in the Wildwood zone lost direct busing to Buchanan because of budget cuts.
Also during the special meeting, the board plans to approve a new student handbook for the 2012-13 school year. The bulk of the changes are because of new state laws, including a new anti-bullying law.
The new law expands the definition of bullying and protects against bullying in places it hasn’t applied before, including on school buses and during school-sponsored activities.
The new law calls for faster follow-up on bullying complaints. If a student complains four times about bullying and the school can’t show that it investigated, the student can get a transfer to another public school in the school district.
All public school employees in Louisiana will need to undergo at least four hours of training on how to detect bullying.