The St. Tammany Parish School Board was split on its decision, but ultimately voted for a set of guidelines that will dictate how its members can use social media platforms.
The board voted 9-6 in favor of the new policy when it met Thursday evening in Covington.
The policy requires that when School Board members are online, they make it clear that they are speaking as individuals rather than as system representatives. The policy also says members must conduct themselves in a way that doesn’t negatively reflect upon the school system, and that they cannot deliberate School Board business or discuss confidential information online.
School system administrators and employees already were under similar social media confines.
Board members Neal Hennigan, Peggy Seeley, Sharon Drucker, Ron Bettencourtt, Bob Womack and Rickey Hursey voted against the measure.
Also on Thursday, the board recommended issuing $175 million in capital improvement bonds to finance new construction and renovations, as well as technology and security upgrades. In all, $150 million would be earmarked for new or renovated classrooms at 16 schools. The additional $25 million would pay for technology and security improvements.
The board also agreed to ask voters for a 2-mill, 10-year property tax to fund school resource officers and mental health professionals at each of the parish’s 55 schools.
The 2-mill tax is new, but other School Board millages would be rolled back by an equal amount so property tax bills would not increase.
The board voted 14-1 for the capital improvement issue, with Drucker voting against. Members were unanimous in their decision on the property tax.
Public votes on both matters are expected to take place in May.
The School Board also agreed unanimously to purchase a 6.28-acre tract of land near Goodbee for just less than $300,000. The school system already owns an adjacent 7.36-acre tract, and the combined property is expected to be used for future construction of an elementary school to serve that quickly-expanding area of St. Tammany Parish.
Also on Thursday, the board unanimously accepted a new behavioral health services policy that is slated to go into effect Jan. 1. The vote brings the school system into compliance with Act 696, which was adopted by the state Legislature this year.
The act requires school systems to allow licensed behavioral health professionals to provide in-school services to students with diagnosed needs at the request of the students’ parents. The student must have a condition that inhibits their education as diagnosed by a licensed professional and as described in a treatment plan.
Parents must select the provider and pay for the cost of the services, either directly or through an insurance provider. Practitioners must agree to adhere to state law and School Board policy while delivering the services and provide liability insurance that covers the services they provide.
The board expanded the act's insurance qualifications during its committee as a whole meeting on Dec. 6.
Thursday’s meeting was the last for seven current School Board members. Neal Hennigan, Charles Harrell, Robin Mullett and Mary K Bellisario all are retiring, and Willie Jeter, Peggy Seeley and Bob Womack lost their bids for re-election.
A special presentation was made to each of the seven members during the meeting. Jeter was cited for 45 years of service in the St. Tammany Parish School System and Mullett was honored for serving as School Board president for the past two years.
The new School Board will have its first meeting on Jan. 10. The board will not meet in committee as a whole in January.