Welcome to 2014 and a fairly busy election season. In addition to Congressional elections, Bossier City voters can look forward to choosing a new City Marshal, and Bossier Parish voters can expect to select a district judge or two, along with the possibility of a challenge to District Attorney Schuyler Marvin two-term incumbency.
In addition, with the retirement of Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jeff Victory, there’s a vacancy on the state’s highest court to fill.
Finally, school board members across the state will be up for re-election – or replacement, dependent on local circumstances.
And the final months of 2013 have not been the best for Bossier Parish School Board members.
But it sure didn’t start out that way for the board. Voter supported capital construction projects are on track as promised by the board during the lead-up to the April 2012 voter approval of a $210 million bond proposition to make significant and substantial improvements to the system’s school – including new schools. The execution of the 2012 plan has been far superior to the 2004 bond issue planning that witnessed a three year delay between an affirmative public vote to fund and construct two new elementary schools and a new high school.
Moreover, the school system has been recognized as 10th best in the state, and its teachers are rated some of the best in the state.
But three lawsuits against the system – all generating from issues at Parkway High School – tend to temper the system’s accolades, at least from the viewpoint of south Bossier parents. Of course, School Board President Eddy Ray Presley’s on-line description of south Bossier parents as “morons” did nothing to improve the situation. Although Presley serves as board representative for a central Bossier district, his quasi-apology should have done little to endear him to voters in any district. That lack of class may be found much wanting during this election season.
But south Bossier parents dissatisfied with the school board’s response to their concerns about Parkway’s administration have taken out their frustrations on south Bossier board members – particularly District 12 representative Kay Padgett Byrd, and to a lesser extent, District 11’s Barbara Rudd.
There’s little Byrd and Rudd can do in view of the lawsuits, but they are taking the brunt of the dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, the board is a defendant in all of the suits, which means that both Byrd and Rudd are advised by the board’s legal counsel not to discuss the matters publicly. Both, however, are committed to continuing to serve their districts and the system as a whole.
If concluding the lawsuits prior to the fall elections turns out to be costly for the school board, not just Byrd and Rudd but other board members may be at the mercy of voters looking for new faces to fill school board seats.
On the other hand, it’s to the advantage of all voters to be familiar with the powers of school board members, particularly in light of legislation that restricts a board’s authority in school personnel issues. Louisiana school boards are limited in personnel matters to hiring/firing a superintendent – only the superintendent can make personnel decisions.
Voters, particularly those in south Bossier districts, may want to brush up on the legal limits of their board members to act in certain situations before deciding those board members are due for replacement.
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org