School safety items OK’d

Associated Press file photo by Chimp Haven, Naomi Lopez-Bauman -- This is an August 2004 aerial file photo of the 200-acre Chimp Haven site in Caddo Parish near Shreveport. The NIH Council of Councils Working Group approved a proposal Tuesday that  calls for major cuts in grants to study chimps in laboratories and no return to breeding them for research. Government scientists have agreed that all but 50 of hundreds of chimpanzees kept for federally funded research should be retired from labs and sent to the national sanctuary. Show caption
Associated Press file photo by Chimp Haven, Naomi Lopez-Bauman -- This is an August 2004 aerial file photo of the 200-acre Chimp Haven site in Caddo Parish near Shreveport. The NIH Council of Councils Working Group approved a proposal Tuesday that calls for major cuts in grants to study chimps in laboratories and no return to breeding them for research. Government scientists have agreed that all but 50 of hundreds of chimpanzees kept for federally funded research should be retired from labs and sent to the national sanctuary.

The Lafayette Parish School Board on Wednesday unanimously approved a school safety package designed to improve security on campuses with additional personnel, including a safety officer, school resource officer and dean of students.

The board also discussed but did not vote on the use of new alarm systems and new security cameras.

The school safety package was recommended after a review of campuses that reported increases in discipline issues after a new discipline policy was started this school year.

The package included:

  • $275,000 for one safety officer each at Comeaux, Acadiana and Lafayette high schools and two officers at the N.P. Moss Preparatory campus, which houses the district’s alternative program for students removed from their home school due to discipline issues.
  • $225,000 for an additional assistant principal position at Lafayette and Comeaux high schools to address increased enrollment and a dean of students at Carencro High related to an increase in discipline issues at the school.
  • $45,000 for an additional school resource officer at Carencro High.

Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau said the costs of the alarm systems and security cameras are still under review. The district does not have the money to pay for new alarms and security cameras at this time, she said.

Billeaudeau told board members that a state task force organized in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December to review school security issues might identify funding streams for districts.

Initial costs were estimated at $336,000 for new alarm systems and $873,000 for new security cameras to serve 42 campuses, Billeaudeau said. “Understand those two items are critical to our school safety,” she said.

The package also identified the need for an intervention program for the district’s most-troubled students; however, that program, administered by the nonprofit group AMIKids, was approved by the School Board at its Jan. 9 meeting.

The intervention program will cost about $123,000 for the remainder of the school year and the school system will share the expense with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Lafayette Consolidated Government.

Other items discussed during the meeting included:

JOB DESCRIPTION: Board member Tehmi Chassion’s effort to move up by two weeks action on the Superintendent Pat Cooper’s request to amend a job description for a special assistant to the superintendent failed in a 4-5 vote.

The board in February approved the job description for the special assistant to the superintendent for facilities, maintenance, grounds, and transportation and required that person to have at least a high school diploma.

On Jan. 9, Chassion questioned the description and the lack of qualifications for Thad Welch, who does not have a high school diploma but who has worked in the special assistant to the superintendent position for the past year. Cooper submitted an amended job description that states a high school diploma or GED is preferred.

Voting in favor of moving the job description change to the action agenda were board members Rae Trahan, Shelton Cobb, Chassion and Tommy Angelle. Voting against moving the issue to the action agenda were Greg Awbrey, Mark Allen Babineaux, Mark Cockerham, Kermit Bouillion and Hunter Beasley.

Awbrey said the board’s job is to ensure that policies are enforced. “Policy was not followed,” he said.

“I don’t have anything against anybody,” Awbrey said. “It comes down to what we’re supposed to do ... The people in my district are counting on me to make sure that we’re treating everybody fairly.”

After the board’s business, at least one educator spoke out against the job description change. At least two other educators and three employees supervised by the special assistant spoke in support of Welch’s work.

“How about standing behind him and asking him to go get his diploma? We can’t just knock somebody down ... We are people who are educational. Let’s back him up,” said Norma Davis, a custodian.

In response to the public comments, Cooper said Welch has improved the custodial and maintenance departments.

“We’ve cleaned up a lot of the shenanigans that was going on, and Mr. Welch is responsible for that,” Cooper said.