Denhamtown staying open: Consolidation plan fails during school board meeting

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Bogalusa City School district will close out its school year — and likely begin its next year — with all of its schools intact.

A motion to consolidate the district by closing Denhamtown Elementary School failed to gain a second Thursday, and superintendent Willie “Toni” Breaux said the district will look at other ways to save money. It was the third time the measure has failed to advance to a full vote.

The district is forced to cut costs after a decrease in enrollment this past year. Earlier in April, the district’s financial officer, Deloris Walker, said that 100 students have left the district already this year. As a result, the district’s funding has been cut.

According to a March presentation by Walker to the school board, closing DES could have saved the district nearly $1 million.

However, those numbers didn’t add up for some board members. Board president Curtis Creel, in particular, said the savings seemed contingent on too many factors to be guaranteed. Board member Calvin Hymel previously said he opposes closing more schools.

For the last two months, Creel and others have asked to review Walker’s savings plan, and he remained unconvinced that a school shutdown would be the best option.

School board member Adam Smith made a motion to adopt the consolidation plan Thursday evening, but no one seconded the motion. Raymond Mims and Eleanor Duke were absent from the meeting. With no second, the motion died.

The district’s fiscal year begins in July and a budget will need to be approved prior to that month. So, with time running out, the district will look at other arrangements. Breaux told the board she was just happy the issue was in the past.

“I appreciate you all making a decision tonight on the proposal,” she said. “It got to a point for me where I just needed a decision because, really and truly, I had been at a standstill and this gives me some direction now. And I appreciate that.”

Creel suggested some components of the consolidation plan could still be adopted to save money, although no specifics were discussed.

In other news, the board approved financial statements, the superintendent’s evaluation and the issuance of an extra annual check to teachers based on sales tax revenue.

That announcement led to a round of applause by the teachers in the audience.

However, Kemp said those funds could be in jeopardy if the district can’t get its finances in order.

“I’d rather see us close a building than touch funds that give teachers checks,” he said.

Although Breaux’s superintendent evaluation by the board was made public, it was not read out loud and was not immediately available.

However, Creel indicated the evaluation was an improvement from others.

“I felt that she had a better evaluation than previously. I’m just going to leave it at that,” he said.

Besides the routine business, the district also recognized its students of the year.

For the elementary level, Amani Turner was the fifth grade student of the year. Maria Martinez was named the middle school student of the year, and Maya Tate was named the high school student of the year.