ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish School Board declined on Nov. 17 to call a public hearing on a proposal to raise members’ salaries by $200 per month.

Board member Sarah Wilson-Rogers last month asked her colleagues to consider increasing their salaries from $350 per month to $550, but her motion to call a public hearing was sidelined by a substitute motion to defer the matter until June.

A two-thirds vote would be needed to increase board members’ compensation, which is called an “expense allowance” in the official School Board policy manual.

In 1992, board members cut their salaries by $200 per month during hard financial times, and the pay has remained at $350 per month for 28 years, Wilson-Rogers said. She proposed to begin paying the higher amount on July 1 when it could be included in the next school year’s budget.

Board member Amanda McKinney and others, however, asked Wilson-Rogers to hold off on her request.

“The timing is just not good,” McKinney said.

Arguments against raising board members’ pay included the need to increase salaries for school employees, who have had to meet additional challenges because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Wilson-Rogers insisted on voting, however, but her motion to call a public hearing in December was nullified by a 4-2 vote on McKinney’s substitute motion to defer the discussion until the school year ends in June.

Joining McKinney were Scotty Owens, Helen Whitfield and Kelly O’Brien. Wilson-Rogers and board President Milton Coats dissented. Angie Norwood was absent.

On another matter, the board approved “in concept” a list of proposed construction and maintenance projects and possible funding sources for the next two years.

Lee Hammer, who is charge of school maintenance, said the board realized more than $5.5 million extra from its $52.6 million construction bond issue because of the way the bonds were sold to investors. That money, together with interest earned on the proceeds and $2.8 million freed up when the new Bains Elementary construction job came in under budget, could be used to fund about $8,277,000 in additional work.

The board already has approved two items on Hammer’s list: renovating the high school auditorium and construction of a new high school parking lot that is nearly complete.

Other proposed projects include renovating the second floor of the high school; building a field house; demolishing several buildings that are being replaced; buying additional culinary arts and career-tech equipment,; surfacing a playground at Bains Lower Elementary School; and renovating a gym for the lower elementary school.

In other action, the board:

  • Breathed a sigh of relief when Owens volunteered to represent the board on a review committee for disciplinary action that stems from virtual learning sessions. The Legislature is requiring the committee after a Jefferson Parish student was disciplined for putting aside a BB gun while he was linked by computer to his classroom’s instruction session. The child’s brother had tripped over the gun, and the incident received national attention.
  • Set a Dec. 5 meeting to act on bids for a major construction project at the high school.
  • Held a closed-door session to evaluate Superintendent Hollis Milton’s performance. The online feed of the meeting was cut off when the discussion began, but Milton said later he received a “grade” of 3.57 points out of a maximum of 4. He said it was his second-highest rating in his 10 years of service.