By Marsha Sills
August 14, 2012
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish school district’s facilities master plan should be used as a guide in making future spending decisions and those decisions should support the district’s new instructional plan, the School Board’s Executive Committee said Tuesday.
“We need to look at how to accommodate the instructional programs and follow the instructional plan, rather than following the facilities plan,” said Shelton Cobb, board president.
The committee met Tuesday to settle board members’ differing views on how the facilities master plan should be used following voters’ rejection in October of a property tax proposal to fund an initial phase of priority facility needs.
Some board members have objected to the facility proposals, saying the projects are being done out of the priority order outlined in the master plan. Other board members say the board has no obligation to follow the plan since voters rejected funding its implementation.
Executive Committee members discussed aligning future facilities decisions with its new district turnaround plan, which includes initiatives devised to move the district from its state accountability letter grade label of C to an A in the next six years.
While some proposals may not match the priorities listed in the plan, the board should make its decisions “recognizing the needs of the district are changing,” said Board Vice President Hunter Beasley, who serves on the Executive Committee with Cobb and past board President Mark Allen Babineaux.
Kyle Bordelon, the district’s facilities director, and Sarah Walker, chairwoman of the facilities master plan oversight committee, were asked to participate in Tuesday’s meeting.
The oversight committee serves in an advisory role and as a watchdog of public money for the master plan. Since the property-tax bond proposal failed, the work of the oversight committee is done, Beasley said.
Babineaux supported the continual need for the oversight committee. Cobb agreed the group’s work is done and said another oversight committee could be formed if the board goes back to voters with another tax proposal.
“If we should ask the public for additional revenue, we will have an oversight committee,” Cobb said.
Superintendent Pat Cooper said there’s no need to “dismantle” the facilities master plan but some recommended projects can be accomplished without rebuilding schools.
Northside High School was recommended to be rebuilt for $80 million, but with another $8 million, it could be viable for another 30 years, he said.
The district has spent nearly $2 million in facility upgrades at Northside High as part of an overall turnaround plan and the additional money could fund the construction of an auditorium and air-conditioning for both gyms.
Similar smaller projects could help improve other schools, Cooper said.
The School Board recently approved an application to the state Bond Commission for up to $30 million.
Cooper’s initial recommendations for the bond money include renovations at Northside, David Thibodaux Magnet STEM Academy and Lafayette High and addressing overcrowded schools in Youngsville.
The proposed projects may change and final decisions on how the future revenue will be spent are up to the School Board.
On Tuesday, Beasley asked Cooper for information on how his final recommended projects align with the district’s turnaround plan and the facilities master plan.
The Executive Committee will make a report to the full board, which meets again Aug. 15.
Editor’s Note: This article was changed on Wednesday, Aug. 8, to clarify School Board President Shelton Cobb’s position on the issue of a master plan oversight committee.