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Livingston Parish Superintendent of Schools Rick Wentzel speaks as school officials reveal designs for the new Denham Springs Elementary School which is scheduled to open in August 2021 during a meeting at the current location of the school Wednesday March 12, 2019.

LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish School Board got a thank you from the head of a parish teacher's union Thursday night after voting to give employees a $750 "13th check" and endorsing a resolution supporting a pay increase for them in the Louisiana Legislature. 

"I want to thank you for standing behind our teachers and our employees," said Tamara Cupit, a ninth grade teacher at Denham Springs Freshman High School and president of the parish chapter of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.

Cupit asked the board members to contact the parish's legislative representatives, as well, to advocate for the annual pay raise from the state.

"That's what's driving this," she said.

A key school board committee last week had approved a proposal from Superintendent Rick Wentzel to give teachers and support staff a "13th check" for the first time in several years. 

Wentzel has said the additional check will cost the school district $3.2 million and be distributed to employees in mid-May. 

It will be funded with $3 million in restricted reserves from a parish-wide one-cent sales tax that is devoted to salaries and benefits. The rest will come from the school system's unrestricted reserves.

Full-time employees will get the full $750 check, with taxes and retirement withheld. Part-time employees will get a percentage of the full amount based on the hours they work.

Employees must have worked at least 50 percent of the school year to be eligible.

The school system employs about 3,475 people.

The resolution passed by the school board with respect to the annual pay raises asks the state Legislature to increase annual salaries for teachers by at least $1,000 and salaries for support staff by $500. 

The resolution also requests the state to increase the Minimum Foundation Program per-pupil funding to school districts from $3,961 a year to $4,015 a year.

The state last increased MFP funding, the primary source of state support for local education, in 2013. 

"The Livingston Parish School Board has been absorbing ever increasing operational costs, from health insurance, to technology, to security of students, to curriculum to align with the state standards, and increasing demands of the state accountability system, without increase in state funding," the resolution says.

School Board President Buddy Mincey Jr. also announced that interviews for the candidates who applied to succeed Wentzel as superintendent will be held April 15. 

Five people applied for the job, and interviews will last one hour each.  

Mincey said the interviews will be held in the following order: C. Michael Robinson Jr., 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Jody Purvis, 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.; Bruce Chaffin, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Elizabeth Swinford, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; and Alan "Joe" Murphy, 7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. 

The board is expected to vote April 18.


Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.