Just moments after the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to make Warren Drake the lone finalist for its next superintendent, speculation shifted immediately to who would be Drake’s No. 2 person.
Noel Hammatt, who served on the School Board from 1995 to 2010, started it off by telling the board, “I just wonder if Michael Tipton is going to be invited.”
Hammatt said he’s heard from three different sources that a top job in Drake’s cabinet already has been promised to Tipton, the former executive director of Teach for America for South Louisiana.
Reached by phone Thursday, Tipton said he got several text messages the night before alerting him to what Hammatt had said. But Tipton said it’s not true.
“That’s the first I heard of that,” Tipton said.
However, Tipton, who is now a private educational consultant, didn’t deny that he might be interested in serving in a Drake administration. “If they feel they can make use of me, I’d be willing to talk,” he said.
On Friday, Drake said he has no idea where that’s coming from.
“I’ve never met the man,” Drake said.
Tipton was just 24 in 2007 when he took over as executive director of the local chapter of the teacher placement organization that hires talented college graduates to spend two years teaching in public schools in impoverished communities.
During Tipton’s tenure, TFA has grown and his chapter now has about 180 teachers working in local classrooms and many alumni in leadership positions in both traditional and charter schools.
Last year, Tipton announced he was leaving after seven years at the helm. Laura Vinsant is running the chapter as the search is underway to find Tipton’s replacement.
Tipton acknowledged he was approached several weeks ago about applying himself to be superintendent of East Baton Rouge Parish. He said he wasn’t interested in that job but was possibly interested in serving in another role in the school system.
Tipton said TFA had spoken to Drake years ago about perhaps doing work in Zachary, where Drake served as superintendent for 10 years. But, he said, nothing ever came of it.
Drake returns for an interview Thursday night. The School Board will pick its next superintendent April 2.
Honoré takes Livingston Parish officials to task
No one — from state and federal regulatory agencies and legislators to the Livingston Parish president and council — escaped criticism from retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who spoke Thursday against a proposed gravel pit being located next to Oak Hills subdivision in Watson.
Honoré blamed the residents’ plight on a system of “weak laws, full of exceptions and exemptions,” enacted by “bought off” legislators and Parish Council members.
Honoré also called out Parish President Layton Ricks, asking why he was not at the public hearing for Southern Aggregates’ water quality certification permit.
“Where is he? Probably taping another show, telling people to move to Livingston Parish,” Honoré said.
Ricks said Friday he had stayed away from the meeting in hopes of keeping it from becoming a political showdown, rather than a forum for concerned residents.
“This meeting was not the place where political pot-shots were supposed to take place,” Ricks said. “It’s disappointing and unfortunate that someone of Gen. Honoré’s stature would come into our parish and call out any elected official.”
Ricks added that Honoré never called him to find out his views on the issue or that it was actually the council’s role — not the parish president’s — to enact land use regulations.
Honoré said the lack of zoning is what kept him from moving to Livingston Parish. He said it was “ridiculous” that a gravel pit would be allowed to locate next to homes.
He hammered the point home by comparing Oak Hills to Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou, saying the same regulatory agencies failed the people of those areas.
Honoré told the “state workers” from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which held the hearing jointly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “There’s a lot of great things y’all do, but this isn’t one of them.”
Could Jindal’s climate change stance cost La.?
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s public comments about climate change have ranged from it being an excuse for more government regulation to acknowledging the climate is changing but questioning the extent to which human activity is the cause.
Given his stance, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Louisiana got a mention along with four other states that a publication says could face potential problems down the road getting federal hazard mitigation funding.
Inside Climate News published an article on March 19 outlining a new Federal Emergency Management Agency policy that would deny hazard mitigation funding to states that didn’t consider the risks associated with climate change by 2016.
Louisiana was listed among “those who could face a difficult decision” because Jindal has not made addressing climate change issues an urgent priority.
But Jindal and Louisiana are not one and the same. In fact, the risk section of the state’s 2014 Hazard Mitigation Plan deals openly with the subject of climate change and the risks it poses.
“Temperature and precipitation averages always fluctuate with time, but in recent years both have tended to increase,” the plan states. “For instance, the historical record shows that since the mid-1970s there have been fewer days per year (between 4-7 days) than the long-term average when the temperature has been below freezing in the Southeast region. Some parts of western Louisiana have experienced more than 20 fewer freezing days.”
The plan talks about the importance of “understanding as fully as possible the state’s climatological system in order to optimize efforts in mitigating the hazards it produces.”
A poll in 2014 of Louisiana residents showed 72 percent of residents believe climate change is a serious problem.
Advocate staff writers Charles Lussier, Heidi Kinchen and Amy Wold contributed to this report.