LIVINGSTON — School Board members who have traditionally guided the Livingston Parish school system, along with their counterparts throughout Louisiana, will have to adapt to new rules on school governance in light of Act 1 of the 2012 state legislative session, an attorney said this week.
Robert Hammonds, who is representing the Louisiana School Board Association’s legal challenge to Act 1 and Act 2, both passed in the recent legislative session, told the group Tuesday that, generally, Act 1 transfers some of the traditional roles, such as hiring power, played by school boards to superintendents and principals.
Hammonds said many changes in Act 1 remain open to interpretation and that school boards are going to have to move cautiously in adopting to the new rules. “If 10 lawyers read this document, you would probably get 10 different opinions,” Hammonds conceded.
Teacher tenure, as it now exists, is a “thing of the past,” Hammonds said. Teachers who now have tenure will retain that status, which offers them some job security, the lawyer said, but after Sept. 1, a teacher must achieve a rating that places him or her in the top five percent of teachers in the state for five out of six years to obtain tenure.
Objective and subjective teacher evaluations will become part of a more-rigid system to determine the competence of a teacher, and principals will have to spend much of their time making and writing evaluations, Hammonds said.
School Board President Malcolm Sibley, in opening the discussion, explained that members of the board are in ‘something of a quandary’ about their role in directing Livingston Parish schools.
He said that the board has been prudent in its approach to the new state rules and added that members are willing to accept whatever the law requires. However, he added the caveat that the board just is not sure of how to proceed in light of the new laws.
“We have a system that works and works well. Our school system has always been rated in the top 10 in the state, yet our legislators chose to ‘fix’ the system and maybe they made some mistakes,” Sibley said.
Hammonds opened his remarks with a brief discussion of the status of Act 2, the legislation that authorizes the paying of vouchers so that some students can leave underachieving public schools and attend private and parochial schools.
Earlier Tuesday, Hammonds was part of a legal team that unsuccessfully sought an injunction in state District Court in Baton Rouge to stop enforcement of Act 2 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 99, the Minimum Foundation Program, on the basis that the laws were unconstitutional.