BAKER — The School Board agreed Tuesday to allow Superintendent Herman Brister to implement a reduction-in-force in all job categories if needed during the 2017-18 school year.
“The optimum word is ‘if’ we need it,” Brister told the board.
The board also heard from Brister about his appointment of Roy Walker, who had been reassigned in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system after a football scandal at Belaire High, as the new principal of Baker Middle School.
The board approved a reduction-in-force in May, but no staff or faculty were laid off during the 2016-17 school year. Rather than layoffs, Brister said in a memo to the board, he will continue to make the effort to reduce staff if necessary by not filling positions made vacant by retirements and resignations.
“Last year, we held to the budget, and that allowed us to hold onto all of our teachers, and we anticipate the same thing going into this year. We should be in pretty good shape. But we don’t know what the state legislature will do and we don’t know what will happen with health insurance costs,” Brister said.
During his first year as Baker’s superintendent in 2015-16, Brister laid off 20 teachers and staff and eliminated many vacant positions with an eye to balancing the district’s budget.
As of the end of February, the district had received $8.3 million in revenues out of an anticipated $14.3 million and spent $7.4 million of its budgeted $14 million, district business manager Sidney Stewart said.
“That’s pretty good. That’s where we want to be this time of year,” Stewart said.
In the matter of Baker Middle’s new principal, Brister announced the hiring of Walker to replace Ferrante Dominique, who had resigned for personal reasons.
Dominique was hired in January and had previously been head football coach at South Plaquemines High School.
At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, Brister appointed Park Ridge Academic Magnet Principal Tammy Armand-Golden as head of both Park Ridge and Baker Middle in order to save personnel costs, a move made possible by the schools’ close proximity to each other. However, after flooding damaged Baker High in August, necessitating the relocation of the high school students into Baker Middle and Baker Middle students to Baker Heights, having only one principal for the two schools became impractical.
Walker had been principal of Belaire High School but was reassigned in November to oversee elementary academic disciplinary centers following a Louisiana High School Athletic Association investigation into the school’s football program.
The ongoing investigation, which also involves Belaire head football coach Claude Coleman and athletic director Chauncey Moore, stemmed from the school allegedly allowing ineligible students to play as well as having unregistered coaches on the sidelines.
Walker declined to comment on the investigation Tuesday night.
He expressed confidence in his ability to turn around Baker Middle, which received its third consecutive F grade from the state for the 2015-16 school year, citing his role in improving Belaire as well as Kenilworth Middle, Capitol Middle and Capitol High.
Walker said he was drawn to Baker because of Brister.
“He sold me on coming here,” Walker said. “I believe in his vision for Baker schools and the community of Baker.”
By EMILY BECK COGBURN | Special to The Advocate
Last modified: April 5, 2017