Our Views: A board needs goals

One man’s nitpicking is another man’s informed consent, so we’re not surprised that both Lafayette Parish School Board members and Superintendent Pat Cooper can get a bit testy with one another over a series of tough decisions involving budget cuts.

“Tell us how much money you want to give us; then us, as the experts, figure out what we want to spend it on in order to get this district where we need to go,” an exasperated superintendent told his fractious board during a long meeting. “From what I’m seeing, you’re nitpicking us to death.”

We’d not go that far, as board members also have a responsibility for budgets and educational outcomes. The schools are a public enterprise, and elected members have a role the experts can’t substitute for.

But boards also have some obligation to pull together and collaborate with their superintendent, and too many of the Lafayette board members are clearly unhappy with both hard budget decisions and the tough-love leadership of Cooper.

For that reason, the nitpicking isn’t really about whether a million here can be shifted or a few million there adjusted.

The undercurrent of division is pulling the public schools back from the progress under Cooper’s leadership.

Lafayette schools do face some hard decisions to fill an $18 million shortfall in the budget, but the system has the financial reserves to cushion that blow. But it’s not just a matter of a cushion, it is the preservation of the initiatives pushed by Cooper that have made real progress in Lafayette classrooms.

We see that progress as worth preserving. And we think that board members and Cooper ought to keep that strategic goal in mind and not nitpick one another to the detriment of the future.