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Story Archives: School board unsure of Pastorek's reform
|School board unsure of Pastorek's reform|
Local school board members are split on the potential effectiveness of Education Supt. Paul Pastorek's recent proposal to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).
While local board members agree that reform is necessary to reverse the statewide educational slump, many disagree with the plan proposed by Pastorek.
The plan calls for, among other things, term limits and eliminating salaries of board members as well as limiting the power of the local board.
"We are elected to represent our districts," said board president Eddie Ray Bryan. "If we don't have the authority to make decisions, then the people have no say in how their tax dollars are being spent. That's akin to taxation without representation."
Under Pastorek's plan, a supermajority vote would be required of the local school board to fire a superintendent. A supermajority vote is two-thirds, rather than a simple majority.
The proposal also grants the superintendent authority to appoint and terminate employees without board approval.
"I don't think that's a good idea," said board member Louise Johnson. "Nobody is right all the time. It's better for a group of people to put their heads together and come up with a solution than to put it all on one person. We're lucky because we have a good superintendent, but what if we didn't?"
Though board members agree with many of Pastorek's recommendations, other reforms stir fear of relinquishing their authority as a board, to the superintendent. Members of the Franklin Parish School Board believe that limiting the power of the local board is equivalent to limiting the power of the people.
"The whole purpose of the board is to provide oversight of the superintendent," said board member Jesse Young. "The point is to separate the hiring and firing from the risk of political backlash."
Some considered Pastorek's proposal to be probative of his own political aspirations, even suggesting his intent was to ultimately centralize the governing power of the school districts in Baton Rouge; a fear common among other school boards in the state.
Pastorek's plan also calls for the elimination of salaries, though Franklin Parish is one of the lowest paid boards in the state. Members of the board receive a $350 stipend per month for their services to the parish, less than half of the state maximum of $800.
"I agree with eliminating the pay," said board member and chaplain Richard Kelley, "I feel like it's a public service and if you're here for the money, then you're here for the wrong reasons. You have to be in it for the welfare of your school district, your community."
Other recommendations proposed by the state supt. include establishing a minimum education level for board members, improving the state nepotism statue and implementing professional development requirements.
During a meeting held earlier this month, members of BESE suggested the Louisiana Legislature appoint a task force to review Pastorek's proposed reforms. However, Pastorek said in a press release that he had no problem with the task force idea, but that "this train had left the station" and they would continue to pursue changes to the local school board governance in the upcoming legislative session.
Franklin Parish School Board Supt. Lanny Johnson said it would be difficult to legislate the proposals offered by Pastorek, and that he would continue to work with board members to do what is best for the school system.
"Board members are a great help," said Johnson, "it should be everybody working together rather than concentrating power in one area or another."