‘School board six’ made a mistake

Published 11:14 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Well there are the Jena 6 and then in Concordia Parish, we have the School Board 6. These are the six members of the Concordia Parish School Board that voted against giving Dr. Kerry Laster another four-year contract. A small rural area like Concordia has one of the most qualified, highly respected school superintendents in the whole state, and the School Board 6 decide they can do better and don’t need her anymore. They are willing to trade a Lexus with a four-year warranty for a Ford with a couple hundred thousand miles on it. Prior to Dr. Laster, the Concordia Parish School system was a joke in the eyes of the Louisiana State Department of Education. Now they are calling Dr. Laster and her staff asking how certain programs are implemented. Did these six board members not notice the supporters at the meeting and realize that these people were teachers, educated citizens, business owners and taxpayers? These board members did not care, because their minds were already made up prior to the meeting.

Now let’s take a closer look at the School Board 6. First of all, no one expected the three black board members to vote for Dr. Laster, even though two of them are retired educators that should be able to recognize the qualities of a good administrator. These three members will not be satisfied until there is another black superintendent, period. A concern I have is that one of these members is my board member, he serves on the Riverland Hospital Board and is employed by the Natchez-Adams County School District, yet he has an unlisted phone number. So how is the public supposed to contact him on any issues? Come on Fred T., get a listed number.

Next, we have Daryle Price, who is a former school bus driver. Enough said there. Daryle’s priority is to take care of those 23 private bus drivers first and let the education of the children come last. The school bus drivers have been complaining for the last 50 years and will never feel that they are properly compensated. I can vividly remember sitting on my bus in 1956 and hearing my bus driver, Bob Smith, whom all the kids dearly loved, and Mr. Pete Brasher complaining about how they were not paid enough. Contract out all of the school buses. Go back and look at the minutes of the board meetings and see how much time is spent on this one issue.

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Another member is Martha Rabb. Now Martha is the board member that four years ago recruited Dr. Laster and encouraged her to apply for the superintendent position. She supported her all through the selection process and was elated when she was chosen. Well, as soon as Dr. Laster began work, Martha was calling almost daily telling, or strongly suggesting, Laster filled the positions with the people she felt most qualified, not Martha. Next, Martha was not happy with the school bus issue and the contract buses. She and her puppet, Daryle, could have been the swing votes needed.

Lastly, we have the president of the board, Gary Parnham. Here is another retired educator that should have been able to recognize the accomplishments and progress that the system has made under Dr. Laster’s leadership. No, he would rather rant and rave and make a bunch of broad statements about test scores being down and not tell the whole truth as to why. I assure you that Parnham and his five cohorts already had their minds made up and a plan prior to going into that board meeting. The board will probably be appointing one of the “good ole boys,” or girls, from within the system so that they can keep him under their thumb. Or perhaps they will bring out of mothballs one of the former superintendents. They certainly won’t want someone from outside of the system to come in because they, like Dr. Laster, may have some new and innovative ways of doing things.

Also, why would someone from outside the system want to come to Concordia Parish and apply for the superintendent’s position after seeing the qualifications of the educator that was just let go? It is a shame that these six board members could not forget their petty politics, see the big picture and do what was best for the children of Concordia Parish. I think it boils down to the fact that these six members were intimidated by someone of Dr. Laster’s integrity and qualifications.

Thank you Dr. Laster for a job well done.

Barry L. Maxwell

Ferriday resident