OPELOUSAS — Two members of the St. Landry Parish School Board are threatening to file a civil rights complaint after the superintendent announced his appointment of a white applicant for a supervisory position.
Superintendent Edward Brown appointed June Inhern for supervisor of individualized instruction — an appointment that sparked criticism Thursday from board members Hazel Sias and Milton Ambres.
The two board members, both of whom are black, said the district should show more racial diversity in filling administrative positions.
Ambres said Brown’s last two choices for central office jobs went to white people. Inhern and Scott Champagne, who was selected in December as director of Title I, are both white.
Brown, who also is black, said during the meeting he will select whomever he feels is the best person for the job, regardless of ethnicity.
Board attorney Courtney Joiner said after the meeting the school district is still under a federal desegregation court order in which the U.S. Justice Department determines whether hiring practices are acceptable along racial lines.
Sias and Ambres said after the meeting that they will contact Justice Department officials and file a complaint.
In another matter, an auditor told the board that the school system had a healthy $17.6 million surplus at the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Casey Ardoin, representing Kolder, Champagne, Slaven & Co., said the surplus occurred despite a general fund budget deficit of $682,965.
Ardoin said that deficit was overcome thanks to other revenue sources, including federal funding.
The general fund is the system’s operating budget and receives revenues from sales taxes in addition to paying major expenses such as employee salaries.
Ardoin told the board the audit covers the fiscal year ending June 30.
Board members Sias and Albert Hayes asked Ardoin whether an employee Christmas bonus, which cost the district $2 million in December 2014, contributed to the general fund deficit.
Ardoin acknowledged the bonus, generally defined as an extra paycheck, was a factor in creating the deficit, but he said there is still enough money available to continue paying for the employee bonuses.
Revenue for the bonuses comes from a sales tax fund dedicated for employee salaries, and the money should be disbursed and not allowed to accumulate over a long period of time, Ardoin said.
The audit report did contain several accounting problems that were not discussed at Thursday’s meeting.
A copy of the audit obtained by The Advocate before the start of the meeting shows the school district violated state law when a John Deere backhoe was purchased without obtaining approval from the State Bond Commission.
The report did not indicate how much the item cost, but it did show the district admitted no state approval was received for the purchase.
In another matter, the audit also found the district still has done nothing to trace $1,736 in unaccounted revenue received from a 2014 po-boy sale at a school that was not identified.
“The money (from the sale) was brought home by a school employee over the weekend and on Monday morning, Oct. 6, when another worker went to get the money in order to form a deposit slip, it was discovered the money was missing,” the audit report says.
Opelousas police were called to investigate, which the report says is still ongoing.
The audit suggests the district “monitor activity funds more closely and develop proper internal controls with school administrators.”
In an interview after the meeting, Brown said he felt the overall audit recognizes the school system is “doing a fantastic job.”