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Photograph: St. Landry Parish School Superintendent Milton Batiste III. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin)

BOBBY ARDOIN
Editor/Consulting Writer

Milton Batiste III became officially employed as St. Landry Parish School superintendent Tuesday night following a lengthy round of contract negotiations.

Batiste is scheduled to earn $160,000 annually in base salary over a four-year period in addition to having his yearly employee health insurance policy paid completely by the District, according to the financial agreement reached with the Board.

Following the negotiating session which lasted about an hour, Batiste told school board members that he should be available to begin his duties as superintendent by June 5.

Batiste was originally prepared to ask the Board to pay for his private attorney costs, but he told members that was no longer part of his contract resquest.

Meanwhile Batiste told the Board that although he is still under contract with the East Baton Rouge Parish School District where he has been working as a school leadership supervisor, he has been taking a leave of absence from that position.

The contract decision for the superintendent concluded a series of committee meetings and a special board meeting .

During an employee committee meeting, Batiste presented his plans for revising the administrative areas of the District,

Batiste said he also plans to eventually resign as a member of the Opelousas Board of Aldermen during a post-meeting interview.

Employment Situation For Jenkins

Board members also agreed to use former superintendent Patrick Jenkins as a special consultant at least through June 30.

Jenkins, who was earning about $137,000 in base pay as superintendent, has continued to be paid monthly by the District since he was placed on administrative leave April 6.

Batiste indicated that he has been in contact recently with Jenkins in order to discuss various issues associated with the school system.

“(Jenkins) is still on the payroll. I have been contacting him with things such as employee issues and other questions that I might have,” Batiste said.

Batiste told board members that he met with mayors from 12 St. Landry municipalities on Tuesday night and informed the mayors at the quarterly conference of his plans for reshaping the supervisory tiers of the District.

Contract Negotiations

Board attorney Courtney Joiner told board members that Batiste, who was selected as superintendent two weeks ago, had requested to be paid $160,000.

The Board advertisement for the new superintendent included a salary range of $135,000 to $160,000 annually.

During the contract discussion on Wednesday night, board member Renee Aymond said she preferred to pay Batiste $150,000 yearly.

After the salary proposal by Aymond, Batiste indicated that he would not accept anything less than $160,000 annually. Aymond later backed off her proposal and agreed along with other board members, to pay Batiste the $160,000 annual salary.  

Joiner pointed out that the $160,000 Batiste was requesting in annual salary was in line with what other school districts had recently agreed to pay their new superintendents.

Batiste told the board that he was asking nothing more in salary than what had been originally advertised for the salary range of the new superintendent.

Board members laughed when Batiste told them, “I respect you. I love all of you,” after indicating he was sticking with his $160,000 request which was approved.

Finance Director Shaun Grantham told board members that at this point she is confident the District has enough money to cover the salary bump for Batiste.

Board member Randy Wagley said before the salary vote that he is concerned about the perception the public might have for a new superintendent..

Wagley reminded the Board that the District is seeking to ask parish voters Oct. 14 to renew an annual 10-mill property tax.

“We are going to ask the public soon for a renewal in taxes, yet right off we are jumping in with a new superintendent and paying him the maximum amount,” Wagley said.

Grantham has indicated in previous meetings that the District would incur a serious financial burden if the property tax worth about 20 mills annually is not approved.

Former Finance Director Tressa Miller said the property tax ordinarily provides about $11 million annually for teachers salaries and school system building maintenance.

Aymond also proposed paying Batiste seventy-five percent of his annual employee insurance costs rather than the full amount, but several other board members told Batiste they were in agreement to pay him for the entire costs of insurance.

Batiste appeared ready to concede to accepting the seventy-five percent cost for insurance proposed by Aymond, which is the normal amount paid for other employees.

However several board members told Batiste to sit back down since they were going to pay him the full amount for insurance.