AMITE — Faced with a projected $11 million deficit for the coming year, the Tangipahoa Parish School Board voted Tuesday to suspend sabbatical and extended medical leaves for the upcoming school year.

Employees will be able to take leave only for a “catastrophic illness” or that of an immediate family member, the new policy states.

The motion passed without objection.

During a Finance Committee meeting held before the regular board meeting, board member Brett Duncan pressed Assistant Superintendent Thomas Bellavia on what constitutes a “catastrophic illness.”

“Cancer, serious heart issues, things like that,” Bellavia replied.

The board also has the right to request in such cases that employees get a second opinion from another physician, Bellavia said. No sabbaticals for professional improvement would be permitted, said Bret Schnadelbach, the system’s chief financial officer.

The move has the support of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said Doris Flanagan, a representative of the organization.

“We are doing this to save jobs,” she said.

Schnadelbach estimated that the move would save the equivalent of 16 or 17 jobs.

Sabbaticals and leaves cost the School Board approximately $1.5 million last year, Schnadelbach said.

The new policy should save the schools approximately $1.2 million during the year, Schnadelbach said.

Other matters taken up by the board included:

PRESIDENTIAL ROLE: The board had a lengthy discussion on the role of the board president as ex-officio member of the board’s committees.

At issue were votes cast by Board President Rose Dominguez that affected building projects in the Loranger schools.

Sandra Bailey-Simmons, who represents Loranger, asked board attorney Chris Moody to explain whether the board president is allowed to vote in committees.

According to Roberts’ Rules of Order, the board president is allowed to vote in committee and delegation meetings, Moody said.