OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish School Board handled two hot-button issues Thursday: approving a $1,000 December bonus for all full-time employees and $250 for substitutes while agreeing in a separate matter to negotiations for an Opelousas church to use a school campus for Sunday services.
Superintendent Edward Brown said Our Savior’s Church in Opelousas is asking permission to use Opelousas High for an undetermined time while the congregation builds a church.
Brown said school officials are still negotiating with the church and will be bringing a proposal to the School Board.
The church plans to rent for an unspecified amount the school’s auditorium, gym, cafeteria, and up to five classrooms, according to a committee report.
In addition, the church plans to renovate the school auditorium by installing new projectors, screens, stage equipment, lighting carpet and other repairs, the report says.
Also included in the proposal are restroom and parking lot improvements.
Eugene Reiszner, the church’s pastor, said he felt having services at the school would help the common good of the Opelousas community and “lift it up.”
Board President Anthony Standberry said he likes the idea of having a church use Opelousas High.
Standberry said since prayer was removed from schools, that discipline issues have increased.
As for the employee bonuses, the Finance Committee had recommended $1,000 for full-time employees and $250 for substitute employees.
Board member Albert Hayes noted that at last month’s meeting, Finance Director Tressa Miller called for a $500 bonus because of budgetary concerns.
Hayes said Thursday he was in favor of giving the full-time workers $500 and the substitutes $250, because the $1,000 proposal will cost about $2 million from a parishwide sales tax dedicated for employee pay raises.
“That fund is not generating two million,” said Hayes.
Miller said there is currently about $600,000 in the sales tax fund. In her written presentation at last month’s meeting, Miller wrote that if the board decided to spend $1,000 for the bonuses, the remainder of the money would come from the general fund.
Board member Randy Wagley said he also was not in favor of spending $1,000.
“I know I’m ticking off everyone in this (meeting) room, but I am recommending $500 in order for us to balance the check book,” Wagley said.
Brown said he was in favor of the $1,000 in order to “keep up the morale.”
The board first considered Hayes’ motion for the $500 raise, but that was defeated in an 8-4 vote. Voting yes were Hayes, Hazel Sias, Wagley and Mary Ellen Donatto. Voting against were Charles Ross, Milton Ambres, Roger Young, Huey Wyble, Standberry, Raymond Cassimere, Kyle Boss and Donnie Perron.
Board member Candace Gerace was absent.
Approving the $1,000 bonus were Ross, Ambres, Young, Wyble, Standberry, Cassimere, Boss, Wagley and Perron. Donatto voted no; Sias abstained.
Employees at the meeting applauded loudly after the board granted the $1,000 bonus.