Panel votes against televised meetings

Ascension Parish residents who want the option of keeping up with the parish’s schools by watching televised School Board meetings will have to continue attending the meetings in person.

The Ascension Parish School Board on Tuesday said it had no interest in televising meetings. Board members unanimously rejected the possibility of televising future meetings during Tuesday night’s Strategic Planning Committee meeting.

“Our meetings are open to the public,” said Troy Gautreau, the board’s president. “We follow all ‘Sunshine’ laws. If they want to, they can come.”

Many of the board members questioned if the benefits of televising meetings would be worth the costs. Chad Lynch, the school district’s director of planning and construction, said he expected some “technology costs” associated with recording the meetings and managing both the video and audio.

Superintendent Patrice Pujol, who said she thought televising board meetings would open members and staff up to “nitpicking,” said the district would have to outfit the district’s Donaldsonville office with the technology needed to broadcast the meetings.

Currently, the board holds two meetings a month in Donaldsonville and one at the Ascension Parish Courthouse Annex in Gonzales, where the Ascension Parish Council already broadcasts its meetings once per month.

In addition, staff and board members have discussed holding various board meetings at different schools in the parish, which would create a logistical dilemma with televising meetings, Pujol said.

Thomas “Moose” Pearce, a former member of the Parish Council who works for the parish, said he didn’t support the idea because he’s “been televised enough.

“If you are interested in your community and your government, then you need to come to the meetings,” Pearce said.

Gautreau added that the money the school district would spend on the technology would be better suited being spent on students in the classroom.

Other matters coming before the board included:

VACANT PROPERTIES: The Strategic Planning Committee discussed the sale of two vacant schools in Donaldsonville — the old Lowery Middle building on La. 1 and the old West Ascension Elementary building on Fourth Street.

The Lowery Middle building, which sits on about 10 acres of land and currently is unoccupied, had been valued at around $700,000, Lynch said, but it has suffered between $150,000 and $200,000 in vandalism.

The district could spend money to maintain the building, but since it sits empty, the board and staff thought that option wasn’t viable.

“We’re not getting good PR out of that building right now because there’s some serious crime going on,” Pujol said. “We have to do something.”

School district officials run a small staff out of the West Ascension Elementary, but Pujol said the staff easily could be relocated. There hasn’t been an appraisal done on that building, and there isn’t as pressing of a need to sell because of a lack of crime, Lynch said.

The board is expected to adopt a resolution at its Feb. 19 meeting to place the Lowery Middle building up for auction and address the West Ascension Elementary later.