Livingston Parish school year to end May 19 as failed tax fallout continues

LIVINGSTON, La – School will end a week early for Livingston Parish schools as part of the fallout from a failed tax proposal that would have funded employee pay raises across the school district.

The school board voted unanimously Wednesday during a special board meeting to move up the end of the school year to May 19, compared to the scheduled May 26 date. Teachers are allowed to work virtually during the week if they choose.

Livingston Parish Superintendent Joe Murphy proposed the idea at last week’s regularly scheduled meeting as a way to attempt to alleviate the burden teachers were faced with amid frustrations in the aftermath of the failed tax.

Three of Murphy’s five recommendations were approved at the March 30th meeting. They were: Scheduling parent conferences during a teacher’s contracted work time, giving principals the discretion to discontinue any non-essential club or activity outside of contracted work hours and no longer requiring employees to work at after-hour athletic events.

Murphy said ending the school year earlier was possible since the district, which has extra minutes built into its schedule for weather, has only used one weather-related dismissal this school year, a departure from previous years. He said even if school ended a week earlier, it would still allow all schools to meet the minimum requirements for instructional minutes.

The board heard comments regarding the May 19 student dismissal date, with most in favor. There was a split among some principals on allowing employees to work virtually.

Murphy clarified that no principals have the option to let employees work virtually.

“We’re providing an opportunity for our people to work virtually, we’re not telling anyone they have to work virtually,” Murphy said.

Wednesday, some educators expressed that moving the last day of school up a week is a way to cover the real problem.

“The request of leaving on May 19th is appreciated and understood, but it’s really just a band-aid for the real problem,” said Tamara Pupit, president of the Livingston Federation of Teachers. “What I hear from members across the board is we need more money. Leaving early is not really what we need. We need a cost of living raise besides a viable raise that we haven’t had in a very long time. Mr. Murphy, your teachers need to know that you’re working towards assuring a pay raise.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, the school board voted to research a four-day work week and the research was assigned to a task force that was created to find solutions for pay raises.

Before Wednesday’s special board meeting, the cost saving initiative committee gathered and members voted to form a special task force to consider where the district’s existing budget can be trimmed to find funds for teacher pay raises.

The task force will be led by board member Brad Sharp and Kellee Hennessy Dickerson is the only other board member on the task force. Other task force members yet to be selected will include a bus driver, custodian, maintenance employee, curriculum director, assistant superintendent, and others.

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