School Board approves pay supplements

After more than an hour of debate, the Lafayette Parish School Board decided Wednesday to give one-time pay supplements of $559.13 to full-time, hourly support employees.

In December, the board decided to exclude support employees, including central office staff, who made more than $35,000 annually. At Wednesday’s meeting, Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry said the cap could lead to potential claims of age discrimination.

Instead, Guidry recommended the board consider approving the extra pay for all full-time support employees.

Potential pay supplement amounts ranged from $416.25 for all support employees, including central office staff, to $589.76 if only employees who made $35,000 or less were selected.

“How can a cap on salary be age discriminatory?” board member Mark Allen Babineaux asked.

Guidry said employees move up the pay scale based on years of experience, which more often than not equates to age.

“Your older individual, nine times out of ten, will be further along in their career,” Guidry said. “When you place a cap, you’re drawing a line at age groups.”

“The intention was to give to those who are making the least,” Babineaux said. “I think a cap of some sort is appropriate.”

Board member Tehmi Chassion proposed giving the extra pay to full-time, hourly or non-exempt employees.

“It’s $30 less, which is still a lot of money, but still it catches about 100 more employees,” Chassion said.

The board’s decision excludes roughly 600 employees, including counselors, librarians, nurses and administrators, Bruce Leininger, district human resources director, said after the meeting.

In December, the board approved a one-time check of $472.50 for classroom teachers paid with $2.4 million in one-time funding approved by the Legislature in lieu of a 2.75 percent increase in the formula the state uses to determine how much per pupil funding districts receive. The state required that districts use half of the money for teacher salaries. The board opted to match the $1.2 million to give support workers a one-time check.

Excluding support workers who make more than $35,000 annually is unfair and sends the wrong message to veteran employees, said Marilyn Lewis, who has worked for the system for the past 26 years.

She’s now an administrative secretary for the system’s academics director.

“I feel as though you have deemed me along with other experienced employees as unworthy to receive (the supplement),” Lewis told the board.

Teacher’s assistant Robin Robinson urged the board to retain the $35,000 cap and not to delay a decision.

“Teachers would not be able to do what they do without us,” she said. “The number one person who should get this bonus is us. We should be at the top of this list. You should make this decision tonight. If you put it back another two weeks, the morale, it will go straight down the toilet. We feel like we’re working for nothing.”

Librarian Paula Graffeo asked the board to consider including all full-time employees who were ineligible for the one-time checks given to classroom teachers.

“We are teachers. We may not be responsible for a classroom of 25 students, but we teach all students on the campus,” Graffeo said.

Babineaux, Hunter Beasley, Shelton Cobb, Chassion and Kermit Bouillion voted in support of giving the pay supplement to the full-time, hourly support workers. Board members Rae Trahan and Tommy Angelle voted against. Greg Awbrey and Mark Cockerham were not present for the vote.

Also on Wednesday, the board elected its new leaders for 2014 in 5-4 votes with Beasley securing the president’s chair and Angelle the vice president spot.

Beasley, who served the past two years as vice president, received support from outgoing president Cobb, Cockerham, Bouillion and Chassion. Trahan also was nominated for president and received support from Babineaux, Awbrey and Tommy Angelle.

Angelle and Bouillion both were nominated for vice president. Angelle received votes from Babineaux, Awbrey, Trahan and Chassion, while Beasley, Cobb and Cockerham voted for Bouillion.

The board also awarded a $6.1 million contract for the construction of renovations and the expansion of Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy to J.F. Juge Construction. The bid came in under the estimated $7 million construction costs, said Kyle Bordelon, district facilities director. Board members Babineaux and Bouillion voted against the bid award.