Sept. 18, 2009

This bit of news comes to us from the St. Mary Parish School Board meeting last week.
   It appears that the school board has decided to loan Maintenance District 2 a whopping $3.4 million in low interest loans from the board’s general fund for repairs to Berwick Elementary and Hattie Watts Elementary in Patterson.
   That’s at 1.25 percent interest, over a term of 15 years. The funds will be paid back by the district to the tune of about $250,000 a year. They’ll use the funds to pay for replacement of the cafeteria at BES and a cafeteria expansion and new classroom wing at HWE.
   This is the same school board, you will recall, that forced us here in Maintenance District 1 to pass taxes for construction of West St. Mary High and B. Edward Boudreaux Middle School and then again to build Raintree Elementary School in Baldwin, at the expense of closing G.W. Hamilton Elementary in Baldwin, Baldwin Elementary, Mary Hines Elementary in Charenton and Thomas Gibbs Elementary in Four Corners.
   And the reason for these closures? Maintenance of those old schools was deemed “too expensive.”
   So the question that you, the good people of western St. Mary Parish, need to be asking yourselves today is:
   Why were we not given the opportunity to get a low-interest, sweetly-termed loan from the school board’s general fund and keep our schools open, rather than incur that tremendous amount of debt for Raintree Elementary?
   I’ll give you the answer:
   Because we live on the wrong end of the parish, that’s why.
   I know it, you know, and believe me, they know it.
   Here’s the best part, according to the news story that came out of Thursday’s meeting:
   “A large portion of the total will be covered by District 2’s $204,000 annual share of the projected savings which resulted from the board’s decision to consolidate four District 1 elementary schools at Raintree Elementary in Baldwin.I added the bold and italics so you’d be sure to know what I was getting at.
   That means that by closing the elementary schools on this end, the school board’s general fund realized a substantial financial benefit, which is now mostly being spent over there.
   With District 2 getting $204,000 to pay back the general fund loan, District 1 using $240,000 to pay the debt on Raintree/West St. Mary and $156,000 going to District 3 projects, you see that at least some $600,000 dollars in savings was recognized, with $360,000 of it redirected east of the Calumet Cut.
   The “logic” there is that since the general fund is financed from the whole parish, the whole parish has been funding operations at the closed schools, therefore the money should go back to the “whole” parish.
   So: You put the western end of the parish in debt up to its eyeballs, take the savings from closing most of its elementary schools, and give them $240,000 to pay the debt.
   The debt the St. Mary School Board owes the west end of the parish is worth far more than $240,000. In fact, it really can’t be paid in money at all. It’s a debt of dishonor, deceit and neglect.
   Do you understand what has happened here? Let me spell it out for you. To wit:
   You, the residents, property owners, tax payers and businessmen of this western end of St. Mary Parish are getting snugly secured with a threaded fastening device.
   You get that yet?
   Take a hard look at your next tax notice, and try to figure out what you got for it. Nada. Zilch. Zero, my hero. You got a good con job, that’s about it. And a bright shiny new elementary school in Baldwin where your kids are crammed in like sardines. Yeah, that’s right, I said, sardines, compared to neighborhood schools. And nobody lifted a finger to stop the al-Qaida of St. Mary Parish from closing down your neighborhood schools. They pick your kids up and ship them off to that industrial-strength assembly line factory of education over there. There are, including Raintree, five elementary schools in western St. Mary. There are eight in east St. Mary. Why? Because nobody in east St. Mary would sit back and watch their schools get shut down. We, on the other hand, are led like sheep to the slaughter.
   It was only because the Franklin City Council stood up and made some noise about it that the potential closing of J.A. Hernandez Elementary was averted just a few months ago. Message? It ain’t over yet.
   The school system monarchy is an overfed, flatulent, bad-mannered, ill-tempered beast that feeds with its head in the east and it’s hindquarters in the west. They are out of control, and proud of it, flaunting their domination with such bold moves as this one.
   Do you or do you not deserve the same considerations from your school board as those enjoyed by the east end of St. Mary Parish?
   “West. St. Mary Parish.” Got a nice ring to it, don’t it? Maybe we should take our marbles and go home. Yeah, then we could slice that loathsome beast right in half at Calumet, kick it’s tail back east, and start calling our own shots. We’ll take over the school board Central Office palace in Centerville for our own school board. We’ll elect some people who want to work for West St. Mary Parish, in parish government and school government, because kiddies, we ain’t got pecan right now.