Interim School Board President Brad Pruhomme wears his mask and gloves during Thursday’s school board meeting. School Board member Chris Gautreaux (in background) goes mask and glove free.
Vermilion Parish School board member questions who gave superintendent, board president authority to start ‘grab and go’ meal program
One school board member accused the school board president and the superintendent of allegedly breaking the law regarding to the start of the “grab and go” meal program this past week.
On Thursday a special board meeting was held to try and pass an emergency resolution. The emergency resolution lets the superintendent make decisions about the school system without getting school board approval during the coronavirus crises.
Thursday night, the emergency resolution was shot down, 4-3, because of specific verbage in the resolution. Another special meeting was called for Friday night, for after the wording has been changed in the emergency declaration, and it is expected to pass.
However, at Thursday’s meeting, school board member Chris Gautreaux, questioned who gave Superintendent Brad Prudhomme the authority to start the meals program and to promise lunchroom workers extra money for cooking the meals?
“First of all, I can not support this resolution, based on a few things,” said Gautreaux. “The reason I can not support this is that I have a trail of emails saying that most of this has already been decided without board approval. There is nowhere in the governor’s declaration of emergency that says the president or the superintendent has the right to make decisions for the board and or spend money for the board. Based on those reasons alone, I am taking these emails to the proper authorities because I think there is an abuse of power or malfeasance in office.”
What Gautreaux is referring to is the start-up of the “grab and go” meal program that began Wednesday morning. More than 500 students have been fed at six different schools. Gautreaux said School Board President Kibbie Pillette should have called a quick board meeting so the board could have approved spending the money for the meals program. Instead, Gautreaux said Pillette said all school board meetings were canceled.
“Why all of a sudden do we have a board meeting?” asked Gautreaux.
Pillette said state officials asked that all school boards in the state pass this resolution.
“So you passed a resolution after everything is implemented and after we started spending money?” Gautreaux replied. “Why did we not have a meeting on Monday or Tuesday like most school boards did? Good leaders rise to the top. They do not cancel everything.
“Now we are in a pickle. I am not going to be a part of a cover up. This is a cover up,” said Gautreaux. “This is a cover up; to cover up, you all spending money without board approval.”
Gautreaux also wanted to know who promised lunchroom workers “hazard pay” for cooking meals for the meals program?
“How can you promise hazard pay when it is not board approved?” asked Gautreaux. “What budget item is it going to come from? Do they deserve the pay? Yes. How can all of these decisions be made? They are made by the president who has no authority. Voting on the phone, which is illegal.”
Gautreaux reminded everyone that his questions are not directed towards stopping kids from eating in Vermilion Parish. It is about “possible abuse” of power, he said.
Gautreaux closed the meeting by saying, this is in the school board member commentary.
“You can continue to act unilaterally and politicize the students’ future, but as long as I am on this board, I will hold all of you accountable and never allow you to suppress the parents and kids’ voice,” Gautreaux said.
Prudhomme and Pillette did not respond to Gautreaux’s questions during Thursday’s meeting.
Prudhomme said the school district will continue to serve the meals as long as they are allowed. He thanked everyone for helping serve the meals.