The Orleans Parish School Board is hoping to move quickly to seal the deal with Henderson Lewis Jr., who was selected as the school system’s new superintendent Tuesday.
Within the next week, officials expect to complete a “super comprehensive background check” on Lewis as well as hammer out the details of his compensation, newly elected School Board President Seth Bloom said Friday. Once those and other details are worked out, a contract will be presented to the board and could be approved at a special meeting in mid-February, Bloom said.
Lewis was selected by a unanimous vote of the often-divided board. It has been nearly three years since the city’s school system has had a permanent superintendent.
An actual start date for Lewis, who is the superintendent of the school system in East Feliciana Parish, will be determined during the negotiations, Bloom said. The board does want to let Lewis wrap up his work at his current job before starting in New Orleans, he said.
One further issue could present some complications: Lewis also serves as a member of the School Board in St. Bernard Parish, where he lives. Bloom said the school district’s attorneys are reviewing that situation and could seek an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office to make sure that arrangement does not violate state prohibitions on holding two public offices at the same time. If his membership on that board is problematic, or if it seems likely it would take his attention away from the public schools in Orleans, Lewis would be asked to resign that position, Bloom said. “It took a long time to find our superintendent, and we want to make sure everything is done by the book,” he said.
City may apply $10.10 wage to contractors
Companies that have contracts to do work for the city could soon be required to pay employees working on those contracts at least $10.10 an hour under an ordinance proposed by City Councilman Jared Brossett.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu pushed the same rate as a minimum for workers directly employed by the city as part of his overhaul of the Civil Service system last year. That proposal was approved in the fall, along with more controversial changes to city employment rules that opponents said removed some protections for current and potential city workers.
The new rate raised the salaries of about 200 city workers and was estimated to cost the city an additional $600,000 per year.
Louisiana does not have its own minimum wage, though it is bound by the $7.25 per hour floor for most types of workers set by federal law. In addition, state law bars cities and parishes from establishing their own minimum wages for private employers, which would block any effort to expand the “living wage” proposal beyond the scope of the city and its contractors.
The proposed hourly rate amounts to about $21,000 a year for employees working 40 hours a week.
“The ‘living wage’ ordinance will help improve the standard of living for many New Orleanians that work hard but struggle to put food on the table for their families,” Brossett said. “The city of New Orleans is limited by state law as to our ability to affect the minimum wage. But we have it within our power, and I would say our moral duty, to ensure that the workers who are paid with city money receive fair wages.”