Lamana collapses, dies at Capitol

East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Randy Lamana collapsed late Wednesday as he walked to his car at the Capitol after a legislative panel hearing on restructuring the parish school system and an earlier vote to reduce the size of the School Board. Lamana was later pronounced dead.

Lamana, 57, was elected to the board in 2007 in a special election and was re-elected in 2010. He was planning to run for a second full term in the Nov. 4 election.

Lamana lived near Pride, and his wife, Tammy, is the longtime school secretary at Northeast Elementary School in Pride. They had three children.

His eldest daughter, Brandi Conrad, thanked several School Board members who stayed with Lamana until he was transported to Baton Rouge General Medical Center.

“They stayed with him until the end,” Conrad said.

She said he was pronounced dead at 11:51 a.m. from an apparent heart attack, but the official cause of death won’t be clear for a couple of days.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor announced Lamana’s death around 8:30 a.m. Thursday during a gathering at the School Board office.

Taylor said Lamana died soon after a legislative hearing Wednesday night on restructuring the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

“Mr. Lamana passed away in the service of this district, advocating on behalf of the children of this district,” he said. “I’m sure he was doing what he wanted to be doing.”

The wake is scheduled Monday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Rabenhorst Funeral Home East, 11000 Florida Blvd.

Visitation starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the funeral home with a service at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Resthaven Gardens of Memory in Baton Rouge.

The School Board meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday was postponed. No new date has been set.

Taylor, who also attended Wednesday night’s legislative hearing, said he didn’t see Lamana collapse, but soon arrived where he had collapsed and waited for paramedics and the ambulance that took Lamana to the hospital.

“It was terrible,” Taylor said. “Just terrible.”

School Board member Connie Bernard also went to the scene where Lamana collapsed. She said it happened a little after 11 p.m. when a security guard saw Lamana fall.

She said she is still processing that he died.

“He was like the chaplain of the School Board,” Bernard said. “He always said the prayer.”

Carnell Washington, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers, said Lamana told him Wednesday that he had just been to the hospital for heart issues and he knew Lamana suffered from diabetes.

Washington said Lamana spent all day at the Capitol on Wednesday and was very worried about the school restructuring legislation as well as the companion bills that would reduce the School Board from 11 to seven members, six from districts, one at large.

“Worried is an understatement,” Washington said.

Still, Lamana invited him to an annual fish fry he was planning for Friday and seemed excited about it, Washington said.

Conrad said that in lieu of flowers the family is asking people to donate new East Baton Rouge Parish school uniforms for needy children.

“He was an excellent father, a loving husband,” she said. “He worked really hard for the kids in EBR.”

Lamana, a 1974 graduate of Baton Rouge High School, had long worked selling meat to grocery stores. He was a volunteer at Northeast schools before running successfully for the School Board in November 2007.

He was backed in that race by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and cast a deciding vote blocking a union push to institute collective bargaining among employees, a measure heavily opposed by the chamber. Three years later, the chamber and other community leaders targeted Lamana for ouster, paying for a series of attack mailers, but Lamana won re-election.

The election embittered Lamana to the business organization, which is the key backer of the school restructuring legislation. If it passes, Lamana likely would have been pitted in a race against one or more incumbents.