Attempt to speed action dies
By Marsha Sills
September 27, 2012
LAFAYETTE — Superintendent Pat Cooper’s request that the Lafayette Parish School Board move up a vote on an architect for an expansion at Green T. Lindon Elementary failed to receive support from board members Wednesday night.
The expansion project was on the agenda as an introduction item, but no one seconded a motion to move it to the action agenda. The estimated $8.9 million expansion is on a list of $31 million in projects recommended at six schools that uses $30 million in limited tax bonds and $3 million from the district’s capital projects budget.
Board member Mark Cockerham offered a motion to move the recommended projects to action, but withdrew the motion after several board members questioned the fairness of rushing discussion on the list. It includes renovations, expansions and major repairs at Northside High, Thibodaux Tech Magnet STEM Academy, Youngsville Middle, L.J. Alleman Middle and Lafayette Middle.
“I have no particular motion or notion where this $30 million should go,” board member Tommy Angelle said. “Just in general, I think we should almost always take a step back when any item is under the introduction stage.”
Cooper said the purpose of moving up a vote was to take action on crowding at Youngsville schools. Classroom additions for both Lindon and Youngsville Middle are on the projects list and Cooper requested that the board act quickly on the Lindon expansion.
“If we don’t get started on this, we’re going to be overrun with children,” the superintendent said.
Board member Rae Trahan said she would support moving the architect approval to action, but questioned Cooper’s eventual intention to expand the school’s grade configuration from a Pre-K to fourth-grade school to a Pre-K to eighth-grade school.
Cooper explained that over the next few years, his goal is to transform all lower schools into Pre-K to eighth-grade configurations to create “true neighborhood schools” and create only one transition for families and students to a high school.
Trahan’s motion to accept the architectural firm Pecot and Company failed to garner a second.
Board member Mark Allen Babineaux compared the projects listed to those identified in the district’s master plan, which was completed in 2010. In the master plan, Lafayette High was identified for a rebuild and was No. 2 on the district’s list of priority projects, Babineaux said. On the proposed projects list, Lafayette High will receive $2 million in work.
“I’m just wondering why Lafayette High high school is getting so little in comparison to other schools that had such a lower ranking” in the master plan, Babineaux said.
The projects list was devised based on current needs, Cooper said, and the district’s turnaround plan.
“We now have a turnaround program that should dictate what we build and how we build,” he said.
Other items discussed during the meeting included:
HEALTH INSURANCE: The board voted 8-1 to continue its contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield as its third-party health plan administrator for the 2013 plan year.
Angelle voted against the contract renewal. After the meeting, Angelle said his vote reflected his opposition to extending the contract for only one year.
“The (advisory) committee recommended we go for three years,” Angelle said.
On Sept. 5, the board voted to table a decision on a recommendation made by an insurance advisory committee of current and retired employees to extend the contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield in favor of hiring a consultant to review the proposals.
The board revisited the issue Wednesday to consider a recommendation made by the board’s executive committee on Sept. 7 to continue the contract for another year to allow adequate time to hire consultants to review future plan administrator proposals.
The estimated plan costs for Blue Cross Blue Shield was nearly $31.3 million and the lowest projected plan costs compared to the other six proposals. The comparison was based on one month of claims filed in each quarter of 2011. Claims cost make up about 93 percent of the administrative costs, according to information provided to the board.