Most Baton Rouge residents probably glanced over this week’s Advocate story about the formation of private “working groups” on the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, which may violate open-meeting laws. These laws protect the integrity of our public offices and boards, ensuring that regular citizens have full transparency into the workings of government and preventing shady backroom deals. Put another way, open-meeting laws are a vital part of making government work for the people.
That being said, we can’t blame you for not running outside and yelling “fire!” after reading the Advocate story. But here’s the thing: East Baton Rouge Parish residents – particularly those in South Baton Rouge – need to pay attention to the mess their School Board has become.
This is far from the first troubling incident to come out of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board in recent years. Board member Connie Bernard – who ran unopposed in her last election – was charged with battery after a video captured her choking a student. Somehow, Bernard remains on the School Board even after this video surfaced. With a greater public outcry from her district, or even some basic levels of accountability, it’s hard to imagine Bernard keeping her job.
The Board also determines the allocation of a vast quantity of taxpayer dollars – with a questionable (at best) history of making smart spending decisions. Recently, Board members approved $25.2 million in spending on Glen Oaks High School with little public discussion. This is just one of 22 “major construction projects” approved by voters in 2018, which the Board is in charge of implementing.
Most importantly, this is the Board that will be in charge of finding a new superintendent to replace the embattled current supe, Warren Drake. There’s no greater responsibility given to a school board than choosing the district’s leader. This Board has shown questionable judgement at best.
East Baton Rouge Parish residents should remember who the Board works for: them. If they want better results from their Board members, they need to start holding them accountable.