CPSB Pays Big Bucks To Goree and Abrams– Chump Change for Teachers and Staff

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Opinion by John Settle

 Caddo Parish School Superintendent Lamar Goree likes to brag about how great the 5800 plus employees of the Caddo School Board are at the community forums “explaining” the upcoming $108 million bond issue vote on May 2. What he fails to say is how poorly they are paid– much less how much the board pays him as well as school board attorney Reginald Abrams. And not surprisingly he does not mention how many hours he and his staff have spent in efforts to indoctrinate teachers and staff in mandatory meetings held before and after school hours.

Last Man Standing

Goree was selected by default in November of 2013. The School Board had a split 6-6 vote along racial lines—and Goree was selected by unanimous vote after Tim Magner (a white candidate) withdrew his name in an effort to promote school unity.He signed a 3 year contract that commenced December 1 of that year with a minimum base salary at $200,000 per year; the contract provided for incentive bonuses of up to $10,000 per year at the end of each school year commencing with the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

Interestingly enough—and perhaps not coincidentally—Magner had a major role in the upcoming bond package. He and his wife Johnette, who is the executive director of the Shreveport-Bossier Business Alliance for Higher Education, were paid over $8,000 to set up the Citizens for a Better Caddo political action committee (PAC) last year. The usual downtown power crowd funded the PAC, which contributed to the campaigns of 3 candidates who successfully challenged board incumbents —Susannah Poljak, Denee Locke, and Kacee Kirschvinh.

Newbies-three-blind-miceThe 3 newly elected members met with the central office staff after the election, before taking office on the bond package. All 3 of the “newbies” voted to put the package on the ballot —at their very first board meeting in January; seemingly support of the bond package was a requirement to get paid PAC money. To say the least, many of their constituents were shocked by their votes for both Goree’s raise and the bond package.

For reasons that the common man on the street cannot understand much less fathom, Goree’s contract was extended after being on the job for less than 16 months. In February of this year—after the Board voted in January to put the $108 million bond issue on the May ballot–the Board extended Goree’s contract for 2 years from the November 2016 expiration date until December 15, 2018. The extension gave gning bonus of $10,000 just to sign a contract giving him a pay bump of $25,000; go figure.

Graph-PayscaleGorees new payscale may be consistent with other school districts of similar size—but his record of positive achievement in that short time frame did not merit the immediate increase, much less a signing bonus. But Goree’s big bucks—presumably an incentive to “sell” the May bond issue to the public—pales in comparison to the payments to Reg Abrams. He is on a $177,600 retainer which seemingly is not needed when he is paid hourly at the rate of $185. In 2013-2014 fiscal year Abrams was paid $473,806 for legal services. Doing the math, that would be over 2560 billable hours; this works out to be an average of 49 hours per week for the year or over 7 hours per calendar day. Again, go figure.

Why the CPSB continues to pay insane amounts for a retained attorney defies logic—and makes as much sense as the proposed bond package. Abrams has a private practice—and he provides defense work to the city of Shreveport and insurance companies. The Caddo Commission has not one but two seasoned in house counsel who work solely for the Commission: their combined salaries are almost $200,000 less than what Abrams rakes in from the CPSB. The City of Shreveport has four full time in house attorneys with a combined salary less than payments to Abrams. Go figure– and figure some more.

Brick & Mortar

The upcoming bond issue is for bricks and mortar—nothing for teachers or staff in way of additional compensation. The Board did give a 2% across-the-board increase to all employees on July 1 of 2014. Before that the last pay bumps were in July, 2008; the teacher salary schedule was increased based on degree ($750 to $1,100 per year with additional funds for steps 0-5). The administrative salary schedule increased $1,075 across the board and non administrative salaries had a $500 per year increase. At one time Caddo teachers were some of the highest paid in Louisiana—now they are in the middle of the pack as far as parish salaries. And the current pay for school board employee could be jeopardized by a upcoming millage renewal in 2016; at some juncture Caddo taxpayers may start voting “NO” on every bond package and tax renewal—the precedent was set last May when the Caddo Commission’s bond package was defeated by over a 70% NO vote.

CommonCoreWormAs the current debate over Common Core in the schools continues to be the “hot button” on a state-wide basis, this controversy does focus the public on what happens in the classroom and what is being taught by teachers (and their aides). That issue certainly recognizes the human component of teaching—an aspect the Caddo School Board has seemingly overlooked in its rush to build something for every area of the parish. (Goree’s top staff have touted the bond package as good for economic development). So much for Caddo’s continuing population and student enrollment declines, its over burdened ad valorem tax rates and the population flight that has increased to Bossier Parish and is now starting to go to Desoto Parish. Defeating the May 2 bond package– as well as the Biomedical Foundation renewal—is a good place for Caddo voters to start sending a message to the School Board members and for that matter, all Caddo elected officials.

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