By Jim Smilie
The Rapides Parish School Board approved a pay increase for all school district employees for the 2023-2024 school year at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.
“If you get a check from the Rapides Parish School Board, you’ll get an increase of at least 4 percent,” said Rapides Parish School Board Superintendent Jeff Powell.
Based on the motion approved unanimously Tuesday evening, a new pay plan will be implemented for food service workers and maintenance workers. Powell explained that increases will vary by position to bring employee pay up to market levels recommended by a recent study, but all of those adjustments will be 4 percent or more. All other employees of the Rapides Parish School Board will receive an across-the-board 4 percent increase effective with the 2023-2024 school year.
And there was more good news regarding pay for teachers and school staff. The board approved a plan to distribute excess revenues from two sales taxes for a “13th check” to all permanent contracted employees. Positions requiring a college degree or valid teaching certification will receive a one-time bonus of $7,100 while other positions will get a one-time bonus of $3,550. The payments will be made in a separate check on May 23, before the regular monthly payroll check that comes out May 30.
Board members also finalized the selection of members of the advisory panel for the creation of a Pre-K to 12th Grade academic and performing arts magnet school at Bolton High School. During the April board meeting it was decided the advisory panel would contain a mix of appointed members as well as randomly selected applicants from the community.
Specifically, the principals of Bolton High School and Rapides Academy/Phoenix Magnet, Jennifer Scott and Dewayne Vines, were appointed to represent administrators, leaving two random positions. The current teacher of the year from each school was also appointed, which added Rokeisha Randel, Jessica Waits and Sharon Hammond to the panel with one slot remaining for a randomly selected teacher.
The leaders of each of the school’s parent-teacher organizations were also appointed positions, adding Molly Townsend, Tori Flynn and Jenny Hamilton to the panel and leaving one slot for a randomly selected parent.
Finally, the four slots for community stakeholders were all open for random selection, with two slots reserved for minority stakeholders and two for non-minority stakeholders. Powell said the school board received a total of 101 responses to the online application, with a handful of duplicate submissions. Ultimately, there were five candidates eligible for the two administrator positions, five candidates for the one teacher position, 37 candidates for the one parent opening, 12 candidates for the two minority stakeholder positions and 36 applicants for the two non-minority positions.
Board members watched as the names were randomly selected using a formula in an Excel spreadsheet. The applicants selected include: Jan Schmit and Becky Clear as the administrative representatives, Tammy Nation as the teacher representative, Jim Clinton as the parent, Anita Hayes and Teresa Lewis as the minority community stakeholders and Brad Webb and Mackenzie Baudin as the non-minority community stakeholders. The group will hold its first meeting on May 9 at the Rapides Parish School Board office.
In other action, the board approved motions to accept bids for improvements at Mary Goff Elementary School (approximately $181,000), Paradise Elementary School (approximately $117,000), H.R. Lawrence Upper Elementary School (approximately $83,500), Pineville Elementary School (approximately $103,000), Pineville Junior High School (approximately $115,000) and Alexandria Senior High School (approximately $65,000).
The board also approved a motion to revise portions of the school board’s Policies Handbook and Student Code of Conduct based on recommendations of the Discipline Policy Review Committee, pending legal council review and approval. Board president Dr. Stephen Chapman and District A representative Wilton Barrios opposed the motion.
At the beginning of the meeting, the board recognized a number of students for winning championships and academic recognitions. Those honored include Buckeye High School Student of the Year Madison Price; the Tioga High School Softball Team, which earned its third consecutive district championship and finished as the state runner-up in Division 1 Select; the Oak Hill High School Lady Rams Basketball team, which won the Division V state championship; and students from Plainview High School who earned a $2,500 award for a film, titled Cherrywinche, students made that was selected as the Film Prize Junior Grand Prize Winner – Middle School.