In an unusual move, a member of the board of the residential high school whose name change sparked controversy in the Legislature declined reappointment to the board Tuesday and said the issue is riddled with politics.
Lovan Thomas, whose board nomination to the state Senate was first scuttled, then resurrected, ended the back and forth by saying he wants off the board for the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts.
Thomas was informed by Gov. John Bel Edwards' office last weekend that he would not be reappointed, apparently because of informal Senate objections.
The veteran board member had earlier urged a Senate committee not to endorse a bill that would change the name of the school to the Jimmy D. Long Sr. Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts. Thomas, who has been on the board for 35 years, believes his frequent criticism of the legislation – sponsored by two influential senators – killed his nomination initially.
"It is a sad day when one cannot express objection in a Senate committee hearing without retaliation," he said in a press release.
"I am 80 years old and have served on the LSMSA Board for 35 years and have plenty of other things to do rather than volunteer my time on a state board of directors and wonder what would happen if I expressed an objectionable opinion," Thomas said. "The political patronage system in the Legislature is alive and well!”
The nomination of Thomas was earlier derailed when an unnamed senator or senators put a "hold" on the move, which senators are allowed to do.
What started as a seemingly simple bill to change the name of a school has mushroomed into a…
The name change push was led by Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi and sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield and the younger brother of Jimmy Long. Thompson is the second longest serving member of the Legislature.
Thomas said he was told Monday evening by Long that the "two objections" to his reappointment for the board of directors had been lifted, which paved the way for Senate approval.
Nearing final approval, a revamped and hotly-debated bill that would change the name of Loui…
He got the news after the state House on Monday approved the name change proposal, which is Senate Bill 1.
"Since the offer was made after it did not matter what he did, he decided not to accept the reappointment and to resign from the board," Thomas said.
The Senate gave the measure final approval Tuesday 28-3.
Long declined comment.
The current term of Thomas, who is the publisher of the Natchitoches Times, expires on Thursday when the 2017 regular legislative session ends at 6 p.m.
The LSMSA serves about 300 gifted and talented students.
Jimmy Long, who died last year, is former chairman of the House Education Committee and played a major role in the bill that launched the school in 1981.
The legislation to rename the Louisiana School after Long sparked one of the most unexpected controversies of the session, and featured an intense campaign by some LSMSA graduates and others to preserve the current name.
Thompson said he offered the bill because Jimmy Long deserves credit for his role in the school.
Critics said it made more sense to name a planned, $23 million dormitory after the late lawmaker. They also said it will regionalize a statewide school, and set it apart from similar schools nationwide.
In a bid to placate critics, the bill says the name change will not affect diplomas, transcripts, logos and other items.
In addition, the LSMSA board of directors will have authority on exactly how the legislation is carried out, including signs.
However, what was touted as a compromise left some LSMSA graduates and their allies unmoved, and angry about how the name change came about.