Letter: Time to 'get off the dime'

Any East Baton Rouge Parish school system retiree who hasn’t attended a recent School Board meeting might want to “get off the dime” and attend one.

At the March 21 board meeting Superintendent Bernard Taylor used the “dime” phrase to light a fire under board members after posting a meeting agenda that barely met the 24-hour advance notice as required by the Open Meetings Law. In just four hours, the board members had caved in and voted to approve eight of Taylor’s recommendations even though they had little detailed information regarding them. And some of the approved plans could require massive funds that are dependant on approval of numerous grants, some of which might not even be decided until after the 2013-14 school year begins. That’s scary!

Board meetings are not the only meetings a retiree should attend, that is, if you know about them. Ironically two meetings regarding group health benefits were held two days later — a morning and an afternoon — for retired and active employees. I attended the morning meeting that included a small number of retirees and even fewer active employees. The meetings were announced at the board meeting on March 21; however, other than that announcement, a retiree would not have known about the meetings except by word of mouth. This is the second year our group health benefits have been threatened with major and potentially harmful changes.

The guidelines for the group health benefits meeting included: do not interrupt the speakers; use a microphone to speak; and stop asking questions when told. In addition, the school system facilitator made it clear the meeting would last two hours, and that was it and no more! It was a cold, insensitive welcome for retirees, some quite elderly, who gave many, many years to the school system and have relied on the system’s commitment that their retiree group health benefits would always be safe.

Retirees and active employees who care about their real dimes need to get proactive in a hurry. Demand transparency, accountability and respect from the School Board superintendant, board members, and staff members. Voting in school system tax elections is a good start.

Mildred Ann Henry

retired Glen Oaks High principal

Baton Rouge