Wise decisions needed in Lafourche

Right now, politics in Lafourche Parish are at a cross-roads and voters and citizens will have the very difficult task of picking new leaders in the weeks which lie ahead.

In this week’s editorial, we chime in on two of the biggest issues going on in the parish’s political structure.



The Lafourche Parish School Board is charged with the very difficult task of selecting a new person to run the school system day to day as its superintendent. As most readers now, Jo Ann Mathews is retiring. She has done a good job as schools chief in many ways and has exemplified the importance of proper leadership in troubled times. Her shoes will be difficult to fill.

As the quest continues we are hopeful that candidates for the position come equipped with answers to questions about how they will manage the school system under current budget constraints. Earlier this year the school board cut the district’s budget by $6 million. As a result, vacant positions were held open, and bus drivers were axed. Plans were made for 28 of the district’s 135 bus drivers to be gone.

We shall not at this point address the good that may have been done by reducing the size of Lafourche’s bloated school board, the entity that made the cuts. Other cuts have included the loss of an audiologist, a physical education teacher and the position of special education director. Two speech therapist assistants and a music therapist are also gone.



Anyone hired for the superintendent position must be able to articulate what can be done to reclaim some of these vital employees. The cutting of bus drivers has already resulted in inconvenience and concern for many parents in the district. As the area’s economy continues — although remaining steady — to not markedly improve, there are potentials for more difficulty further down the line.

That means courage is needed for the person who will sit in the superintendent’s chair. That person must be able to tell a reluctant board, directly and publicly, what he or she needs done in order for the school system to stay on track and serve those it was meant to serve in the best way possible.

It also means the school board members must be prepared to ask candidates what ideas they have for managing an austerity budget, and for how they might recommend changes to make things better.



We wish we knew how to better recommend paths that might be taken to undo what’s been done, or at least to prevent similar problems in the future. We are not educators, and we don’t presume to have the wisdom that the school board itself might possesses.

But we do know that under the current circumstances, the person they choose should be taking the job with eyes wide open, and with plans for maximizing what benefits students shall have as the district goes on the road to recovery.

PARISH COUNCIL WOES



The jury has spoken and Lafourche Parish Councilman James Bourgeois has been convicted of filing false public records. As a result, he has been suspended from his council seat. The council itself must select an interim replacement, who will serve

After Lafourche Parish Councilman James Bourgeois was convicted of filing false public records last week, he has been suspended from his council seat pending an appeal. Bourgeois does plan an appeal, and that is certainly his right.

When committing the crime of which he was convicted, which involved stating that he lived in the district he was elected to represent, falsely and unlawfully, Bourgeois showed disregard and disdain for voters. We feel comfortable saying this at this point because the jury’s verdict makes this a fact.



If he wishes to do right by the taxpayers he hoodwinked, there is no choice for Bourgeois but to resign from his seat. The people of Lafourche Parish have enough to worry about, what with the tremendous divisions between that body and Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle, as well as the day-to-day challenges of governance.

The law allows for the replacement to be interim, in the event that whatever appeal Bourgeois makes is successful. Presumably he can then reclaim his seat, if an appeals court finds his arguments persuasive.

The people of Lafourche, and the district Bourgeois represented in particular, deserve better.



If an appeal is successful Bourgeois is certainly free to run again, and let voters decide the question. In the meantime, they deserve stability and no question marks around who is looking out for their interests at the parish government level.

A resignation would be the right thing to do. We urge Councilman Bourgeois to consider doing so as soon as possible. •