The announcement has already gone out in the Department of Education (DOE) and on Monday, an official layoff plan will be presented to the Louisiana Civil Service Commission.
We hope the commissioners will consider the fate of affected employees who have families to support and mortgages, tuition, and car notes to pay before approving the plan in the same routine manner as with recent layoff plans.
That, after all, is the most damning aspect of this entire administration: the fact that human lives are affected adversely in the name of greed, power and ego. They are people who have names and faces. They have human emotions just like the rest of us. They go to work, come home and mow the lawn. They fish on weekends and perhaps coach their kids in softball, baseball and soccer. They sit beside us at church and in the movie theater.
They grew up believing that if they studied hard in school, made good grades, acted as responsible citizens and worked hard at their jobs, they would realize the American dream of a home, a family, and the opportunity for their children to do better than they.
That may be the way it’s turning out for some, but for the most part, state workers today are living with the same fears of insecurity as the rest of us. The administration of Bobby Jindal is doing everything in its power, through a compliant and pitifully weak legislature, to thin the herd, as it were, of the most vulnerable state employees—those with no one to speak on their behalf—by firing thousands of decent, hard-working employees and gutting the retirement of those who remain.
And what about the private citizen, those who do not work for the state? Yes, you have a dog in this hunt, too, whether you know it or not, whether or not you are willing to pull yourself away from Duck Dynasty or American Idol long enough to get involved.
It is your children whose public education is being destroyed before your very eyes. It is their tuition costs that are soaring because Gov. Bobby Jindal, perhaps the weakest—and at the same time, most power hungry and ambitious—governor this state has seen for at least 100 years insists on keeping taxes low for his constituents and corporate entities who contribute heavily to his campaigns. Altogether, tax breaks, exemptions and incentives have been handed to these supporters on a silver platter to the tune of some $5 billion a year in breaks.
It is the state that suffers at Jindal’s bumbling, self-righteous refusals to accept federal Medicaid funds, broadband internet funds, federal funds for a passenger rail line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and federal funds for early childhood development.
His reason? He doesn’t like to accept federal funds with the strings that are attached. Well, he certainly accepts massive federal funding to pay for hundreds of contracts awarded by DOE when it fits his agenda. He has no problem accepting billions in federal highway funding dollars. And despite his protestations to the contrary, he had no problem accepting federal stimulus money to dole out to local governments at Protestant churches during his first term of office.
By the way, does anyone happen to know the number of churches he has visited since his re-election?
Yea, not one.
He also has had no problem with accepting hurricane relief funds. Of course, he probably would have been ridden out of the state on a rail had he declined those funds at a time they were so desperately needed. But the Road Home Program, run by his appointees, has a less than stellar record in administering hundreds of millions of federal funds as evidenced by a recent audit that found that more than $100 million may have been misspent.
So now we’re looking at a significant layoff at DOE. The notice went out to DOE employees on Friday (that’s when news releases that cast the administration in a bad light are most likely to be issued).
Early word is some three dozen employees will get the axe, to become effective on May 30.
“This layoff is being proposed due to a reduction of state funds of $3.4 million in the Operating Budget for fiscal year 2013-2014.
But wait. They’re trying to save $3.4 million?
A printout of DOE employees reveals a list of fairly hefty salaries of unclassified (appointed) employees in both DOE and the Recovery School District (RSD).
There are 54 employees of DOE and RSD who earn $100,000 or more per year for a total payroll of $6.7 million.
The breakdown shows there are 32 RSD unclassified employees earning a total of $3.66 million and 22 DOE unclassified employees earning $100,000 or more with a total payroll of another $3 million.
And that is just those making more than $100,000. There are 86 who make $90,000 or more in both DOE and RSD and only six of those are classified employees—all in DOE.
Let’s take a look at some of the individuals, their job titles and salaries.
Recovery School District:
• Neeta Boddapati—Administrator, Other Pupil: $95,000;
• Clara Bradford—Clerical Other Special Programs: $95,000;
• Ronald Bordelon—Administrator, Chief Officers: $150,000;
• Edwin Compass—Director: $125,000;
• Nicole Diamantes—Administrator, Other Special Programs: $105,000;
• Patrick Dobard—RSD Superintendent: $225,000;
• Gabriela Fighetti—Administrator, Regular Programs: $117,000;
• James Ford—Administrative Superintendent: $145,000;
• Lona Hankins—Director: $131,000;
• Helen Molpus—Administrative Chief, Officers: $115,000;
• Dana Peterson—Administrative Superintendent: $125,000;
Bear in mind that even with all the high salaries and impressive sounding titles that go with them, the RSD has an abysmal record:
• All 15 direct-run RSD schools were assigned a letter grade of “D” or “F.” compared to only one of the five (20 percent) Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) direct-run schools.
• Of the 42 charter RSD schools, 33 (79 percent) received a “D” or “F” compared to none of the 11 charter schools run by the OPSB.
• Of the 5422 students attending direct-run RSD schools, 100 percent received a “D” or “F.”
• Of the RSD students attending charter schools, 15,040 (76 percent) attend schools with grades of “D” or “F.”
• Erin Bendily—Deputy Superintendent: $140,000;
• Nicholas Bolt—Fellow: $105,000;
• James Bowman—Director: $148,000;
• Kenneth Bradford—Director: $110,000;
• Hannah Dietsch—Assistant Superintendent: $130,000;
• Howard Drake—Liaison Officer: $160,000;
• Joan Hunt—Executive Counsel: $125,000;
• Gary Jones—Executive Officer: $145,000;
• Kerry Laster—Executive Officer: $155,000;
• David “Lefty” Lefkowith—Director: $146,000;
• Kunjan Narechania—Chief of Staff: $145,000;
• Stephen Osborn—Assistant Superintendent: $125,000;
• Elizabeth Scioneaux—Deputy Superintendent: $132,800;
• Jill Slack—Director: $124,000;
• Gayle Sloan—Liaison Officer: $160,000;
• Melissa Stilley—Liaison Officer: $135,000;
• Francis Touchet—Liaison Officer: $130,000;
• John White—Superintendent: $275,000;
• Heather Cope—Director: $125,000.
If John White sincerely wished to save $3.4 million, he could probably do with fewer liaison officers, directors and “fellows,” whatever that is.
White has deliberately brought in a bevy of highly-paid, appointees whose credentials, like those of Lefkowith, might have little to do with education and more to do with political loyalty.
But then, White was himself brought in by Jindal to do the governor’s bidding—even before his official appointment.
Jindal’s first attempt at installing White was rejected by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and he was not officially appointed superintendent until after a new board took office in January of 2012. But that did not stop White—and Jindal—from moving forward with their agenda.
In December of 2011, with Ollie Tyler ostensibly serving as acting superintendent, personnel changes were in the offing in the department when White announced to the staff members involved in the proposed changes, “Nothing gets done until I say so.”
That’s the way things are done in this administration. Disregard of the law has become the order of the day.
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