OUR VIEW: Low-ball lease a loss for TPSB

It is possible, as Terrebonne Parish School District Superintendent Philip Martin maintains, that the low-ball lease of the two-story former Houma Elementary School will not result in any financial harm done.

It is also possible that the $1,000 per month cost to the Terrebonne Revitalization Company was indeed arrived at by proper adherence to bid laws, which is the opinion of the School Board’s attorney.

But there are unresolved questions, as evinced by an anonymous complaint to the Louisiana Attorney General and concerns voiced by at least one school board member.

Whatever the resolution of the matter, it needs to serve as a lesson learned for administrators that all board transactions must be scrutinized more closely than ever, now that taxpayers have turned down a requested millage increase and thus indicated a lack of faith in how the district gets things done.

At this point in time more transparency than ever would be a good idea. Questions about how the board is conducting its business must be addressed promptly and without a defensive posture, even if the questions appear unfair or even accusatory.

However the lack of faith in this school system developed, and no matter whose fault it might be, school officials must ponder the “no confidence” message that the millage vote appears to voice.

Too often officials in school districts or other entities regard tough questions about their choices as veiled criticism. But what the Terrebonne school officials need to know now – more than ever – is that questions about financial responsibility to a system in crisis that has already lost a bid at a lifeline will likely persist if not multiply.

As the board and the administrators perform their duties, they must understand that their ability to build trust starts now, and that it will not be handed to them easily, but must be earned.

We wish school district officials well in their efforts to do what they must to promote educational goals. But we would also caution them that the public is watching very carefully, and that proactive sharing of information can go a long way toward allowing that to happen.