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Photo by FREDDIE HERPIN, Photographer

BOBBY ARDOIN
Contributing Writer

St. Landry Parish School Board Superintendent Patrick Jenkins says it is apparently now up to him and District school board members to develop alternative plans for improving facilities and elevating employees’ salaries.

Jenkins also questioned during a Monday night interview how the District with available funding can remain competitive for maintaining teaching talent and in addition to how committed parish residents are about supporting public education.

The interview with Jenkins occurred following a series of three committee meetings which consumed more than four hours.

Board members did not discuss the election results during any of the committee meetings.

Jenkins however was willing to talk about the election following the meetings.

“Now it is time for us to go back to the drawing board and to decide what is the best course of action for teacher pay and our facilities,” Jenkins said as he answered reporters’ questions.

Jenkins’ remarks came less than 48 hours after voters defeated by large margins three separate tax proposals that if approved would have added 23.8 mills annually to what the District now receives from parish property owners for at least the next 10 years.

The voters’ decisions on Saturday also derailed board members’ hopes of increasing teachers’ salaries, augmenting aging athletic facilities and building four new lower elementary schools.

There’s no major funding source available at this point Jenkins said, for accomplishing what could have been financed if the tax propositions had been approved.

“We do not have the money right now for permanent pay raises. At some point we will go back to the public and ask them why they said no. Hopefully the public will show more trust in the school system,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said he sought to acquire more input and public sentiment about the school system. Jenkins said the over the past two years he attempted to accomplish more public opinion from outside the school system following a 2018 property tax defeat.

“We have been having lots of discussions. I set up committees composed of parents, students, teachers and principals for them to provide ideas and input about what we could do better,” Jenkins said.

Board member Anthony Standberry said during a Building, Lands and Sites Committee meeting that the public is showing a lack of trust in board members.

“This happened with the board members many years ago and now we are paying for their sins,” said Standberry.

Jenkins added that he thought separating the three key ballot proposition issues for last Saturday’s election would have helped in getting funding issues passed.

“We did that so people could have supported one of (the propositions). What are the answers to that other than saying no? How can we remain competitive? You either support education in this parish or you don’t,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the election targeted the property owners since there was no possibility of placing a sales tax increase on the ballot. Most municipalities are currently “maxed out” about what the state currently allows them to collect, Jenkins added during another interview.

The District’s employees have been working hard to improve the school system and Jenkins said he regretted that public support for the workers wasn’t reflected in the election results.

“Our employees are going above and beyond. At the end of the day, it shows there is a lack of support in our parish for public education,” Jenkins added.