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'We're f*****': Candid recording captures EBR school board member venting over rushed budget talks

4 months 2 weeks 3 days ago Wednesday, July 12 2023 Jul 12, 2023 July 12, 2023 5:38 PM July 12, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - A candid moment caught on a microphone just moments after the East Baton Rouge School Board's last budget meeting shows a potential schism between board members and other school leaders.

It happened at the end of a special budget meeting July 6, where board members discussed proposals put forward by Superintendent Sito Narcisse.

Though the school system's spending plan was supposed to be in place at the end of June, the board failed to reach an agreement, triggering last week's meeting and now another special meeting scheduled this Thursday, with the first day of school less than a month out. 

After the conclusion of last week's meeting, some board members' mics were still live as people filed out of the council chambers. It was then that councilmember Patrick Martin bluntly expressed his frustrations.

"Yeah, we're f*****!" Martin is heard telling another board member. "Because he gave us notice to budget on the 17th."

Martin told WBRZ on Wednesday that he simply got lost in the heat of the discussion.

“I was momentarily frustrated with the timing of the rapid process in which we were reviewing and approving the budget," Martin explained.

Despite the comment caught on an open mic, School Board President Dadrius Lanus says every board member is on the same page. 

“That’s what I call a small distraction, due to some small frustrations to the budget,” Lanus said Wednesday. “There is no divide on our board."

But even if there is no lingering frustration among the board, many educators have a different perspective. Some of them have reached out to WBRZ anonymously, criticizing the budget proposals and the decisions made by the superintendent.

The board was initially supposed to move forward with a budget including an 8-percent pay raise for teachers, a raise promised by Superintendent Narcisse. However, some administrators received a letter saying that there could be major changes to their roles, leaving them in fear for their jobs.

"He has a really bad habit of shooting off of the mouth and saying things without seeing if they can be done," one employee told WBRZ.

At the July 6 meeting, the board narrowed down the proposed budget from four options to just two. The candid recording from Martin references the two options that need to be “tweaked.”

With many employees still worried about their jobs, Lanus is reassuring everyone that nothing is set in stone right now.

“Some positions you saw taken out of the budget as we prioritize and get an understanding on how it is going to impact our classrooms. We are making adjustments, and some positions may have to be added back to it,” Lanus explained.

He's hoping everyone will have more clarity after the next meeting Thursday.

“When we have the conversation tomorrow with the modifications, I think everyone is going to walk away very satisfied with what they see."

Even when the board decides on the budget proposal Thursday, Lanus tells WBRZ that the budget will not be locked in until July 17.

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