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Tensions rise at EBR schoolboard meeting after promise of 8% staff pay raise sputters

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BATON ROUGE - People shared their problems at the podium Thursday at the East Baton Rouge School Board public hearing to discuss the proposed budget for the 2023-2024 school year. 

"Our support staff deserves a raise, our teachers deserve a raise and it needs to be done sustainably because every day we pass a billboard that says Ascension Parish loves teachers, advertising what they're going to do for them," one speaker said.

Eleven months ago, Superintendent Sito Narcisse promised an 8% pay raise for school employees. With reduced spending and federal funds coming off the books, that raise can only be 7.5% and would only apply to teachers, something that support staff say is unfair.

"You will have a mass exodus, I repeat a mass exodus of teachers and staff if you do not come to some kind of compilation that gives the compensation they need and deserve," another speaker said.

School Board President Dadrius Lanus ensured the crowd that the promise would be fulfilled with pay raises for all school staff and employees.

"I will not approve of a budget that does not include equal pay and fair pay for teachers and support staff. We do not want to see a mass exodus out of our district, we see what's happening in Livingston Parish, not to throw them under the bus, but guess what? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what will be the end result if we don't get this right," Lanus said.

However, other board members had to break the news to the public that the promise is bleak and unsustainable for future budgets that wouldn't include extra federal funding for things like COVID-19 relief.

"Until we are growing we are dying and with that comes cuts, the money doesn't just come out of nowhere," District 6 EBR School Board Member, Nathan Rust said. 

"You guys all deserve the raises you were promised but I was lied to and you guys were lied to. If we give this raise right now without making some huge cuts, there will be a mass exodus but it will be forced," District 8 EBR School Board Member, Katie Kennison said.

There will be another public meeting on June 15th to further discuss the school board's budget. It is currently scheduled to be approved by the end of the month.

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