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The number of bus drivers in Livingston Parish has dwindled in recent years, straining the school system's efforts to get roughly 20,000 kids to school on time, and bring them home safely each afternoon.

The Livingston Parish School Board agreed to bump up five administrators to a pay scale for people with master's degrees despite a tense misunderstanding with the superintendent, who said he was under the impression he had the authority to approve the assignments without a vote.

Thursday's approval comes several days after Livingston Parish Schools Superintendent Alan "Joe" Murphy admitted in a public meeting that he had re-assigned several administrators to higher-paying positions in line with their degrees without board approval.

Under Louisiana law, school boards are designated to determine salary for school system employees.

In Monday's budget and goals committee meeting, Murphy presented five administrators for a pay scale change and said he realized he had overstepped his authority in re-assigning some of them without board approval after consulting with legal counsel. 

"I’d like to apologize to all of the board members for my oversight on these proposals," Murphy said. "While this rationale does not excuse my oversights, when these inequities were brought to me by my staff, I believed I had the authority to make this judgment … I have brought these back before the board and I am very, very grateful that the committee has agreed to these proposals."

He had intended to address discrepancies in pay where administrators who were assigned to the central office did not have the opportunity to increase their salaries by earning advanced degrees, like educators. If they had a master's degree, they would not be paid commensurate with their experience. 

The proposals were brought before the entire board in Thursday's meeting, during which all but District 2 Board Member Kellee Dickerson voted to approve the re-assignments.

In the last general meeting, Dickerson had voiced concern that Murphy acted on his own accord without consulting the board. 

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"I’m not really sure how he thought he could use his own discretion," she said. 

In voting no, she hoped to take a "strong stand" against the error in procedure that she found concerning.  

"It’s nothing against the people at all," she said. "We have some really hard-working people that go above and beyond. But the way it was brought about, and the fact that I feel this is going to be a bigger problem down the road, I can’t support it."

She also rejected the pay scale changes over budgetary worries and starting a precedent that may be difficult to afford, especially if more people apply for the same pay scale. 

"Lately the school board has been throwing out money like we’re Santa Claus, and I think we really need to watch our spending and spend wisely," she said.

Devin Gregoire, District 9 board member, said the change should be a positive move for retention and recruitment in the school system to encourage more qualified applicants to apply. 

"The inequities in the positions and the advantages of having the ability to use that as a hiring in a retention method is a good thing," he said. "The only issue that had came up wasn’t about whether or not to move them — it was the procedure that was taken. That’s where the concerns and the issues were, was about the procedure. The actual implementation of moving and resetting these pay scales is a good thing."


Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com