Parish schools to close for teacher rally

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2000

VIDALIA, La. — With her and her husband’s tight work schedules, Cyndie Dillon will have to be creative to find a place her four youngest children to stay on Wednesday. Concordia Parish public schools will be closed that day because more than 150 of the district’s 600 employees plan to attend a teacher pay rally in Baton Rouge that day, Superintendent Lester &uot;Pete&uot; Peterman said Friday.

&uot;Well, we’ll have to do something, because I’m in accounting and I can’t take off this time of year,&uot; said Dillon, whose 9-, 11-, 12-, and 15-year-olds attend Vidalia schools, while her 18-year-old is homeschooled. &uot;I guess we’ll be calling Mamaw and Papaw.&uot;

As a result, final exams will begin a day later, on May 18, and the school year will end a day later, on May 24, because the district must make up the missed day. Dates for senior exams and graduations will remain the same.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;This does give us less preparation time for summer school, and we don’t have much time to notify parents (of the missed day) so they make alternative (child care) plans,&uot; Peterman said.

At least 5,000 Louisiana public school teachers are expected to converge on the State Capitol for a rally calling for pay raises. Average teacher pay in Louisiana is $32,510, compared with a Southern average of $35,795 and a national average of $40,582.

Although one School Board member was out of town Wednesday, Peterman said that when he called the other eight members Wednesday, they approved of canceling classes.

&uot;Their first concern is for the safety and operation of the system,&uot;&160;said Peterman, adding that it would not be possible to operate schools with so many employees absent, including more than 140 teachers.

In its April 4 meeting, the school board decided to allow two employees per school to attend the rally, which didn’t require a board vote because the district had allowed that number when union members attended past events.

But many teachers would probably take a personal day and go anyway, and they would only need to notify the district of their plans 24 hours in advance, said Wilma McKeever of the Concordia Federation of Teachers.

Earlier this week, parish principals notified Peterman that more than 150 employees had said they would attend Wednesday’s rally.

The union last held such a rally in 1997, in part to fight legislation and also to push for a raise. Lawmakers ended up approving raises of between $850 and $1,200 a year.