Letter To The Editor from Vermilion Parish School Board member Anthony Fontana
I am writing this letter because so many people through out the Acadiana Area have been asking me why (4) four of the Vermilion Parish School Board Members want to remove our superintendent when Vermilion Parish School System is the best in the Acadiana Area and one of the best in the State. They want to know if these Board members have lost their minds.
Elections have consequences and the last school board election is producing devastating consequences for our school system and for the taxpayers of this Parish. It produced the gang of (4) four, Laura LeBeouf, Luddy Herpin, Sara Duplechain and Kibbie Pillette.
What a devastating change has occurred since they became board members. Before they arrived we had (8) eight years of many 8-0 votes and our system flourished. Since their arrival the financial security of our system is in jeopardy and all of our educational triumphs are now threatened.
Last year I wrote a letter to the editor on the 22nd day of October, 2015, that was published. I warned that they are deliberately causing the system to lose over $200,000.00 a month in the insurance fund. This was done to cause the superintendent to look ineffective in order to remove him from office. While at the Board meeting to evaluate the superintendent held on the 16th day of May, 2016, my prediction came true.
There was no evaluation of the job the superintendent was doing. There was only a verbal hatchet job. His accomplishments were never discussed even though our district is the best in the Acadiana Area and one of the top (10) ten or (11) eleven school districts in the State.
Since that night people from all over Acadiana including Vermilion Parish are asking me to explain why anyone would want to remove such a successful superintendent from office. What I hear most from outside Vermilion Parish is “if Vermilion’s Board does not want him we will take him.”
To understand this we only need to review the actions of the gang of (4) four. First they opposed renewing with United Health Care even though our insurance committee, the only board committee that is made up of teachers, retirees, bus drivers and board members, voted to renew with United Health Care. This was done with these board members knowing that our insurance fund was losing $200,000.00 a month. Their vote has cost the Board to continue losing money from October until this April for a total loss of 1.3 million tax dollars. In February our insurance fund balance was $600,000.00.
After voting to change insurance carriers after United Health Care had been with us for (13) thirteen years they voted to change insurance agents. Mr. Lloyd Campisi had been our agent for (23) twenty-three years. He has helped a countless number of our employees over the years with their insurance claim problems. He is a local taxpayer and has an office here in Abbeville to service our employees.
Because of his close working relationship with the superintendent and myself the gang of (4) four wanted him out. This they accomplished.
They hired Dwight Andrus Insurance Agency from Lafayette who doesn’t represent school districts. Our bid requirements stated the agent we hired was to have a local presence to attend to the needs of our employees. Not only is there no local office for our employees to go to on a daily basis, but contrary to Dwight Andrus’ promises before it was chosen, it refused to attend a recent meeting of the Board to discuss our wellness program, a program that Mr. Campisi was intimately involved in getting started.
Then our CFO, Phil Sellers advised the Board that we are facing a 3 million dollar deficit this year. As Board President I directed the superintendent to come up with a plan to balance our budget.
The superintendent gave us a plan that wouldn’t fix one employee, would not affect one program and would not increase our student teacher ratio which is presently lower than state guidelines. The gang of (4) four of course voted against this plan to again embarrass the superintendent even though this plan would save the taxpayers 1.3 million dollars. Instead they voted to accept a plan that only saved us $500,000.00 to $600,000.00. When I questioned that vote Mr. Pillette’s response was that we should not be making cuts until our general fund was depleted. So much for fiscal responsibility. This is the same cause of action he took in the late 1980's that caused the Board to have a $2,000,000.00 deficit with no general fund money. It caused the Board to have to close schools for which he voted. People didn’t believe me when I said he told Lloyd Campisi and I that he would do that again beginning with closing Gueydan.
The gang of (4) four will block anything the superintendent or I propose. We are an (8) eight member board and it takes (5) five votes to get anything passed. That is why I told the superintendent he needs to move on to a district that is willing and wanting his help. I don’t want to lose him but as long as the gang of (4) four hold office he will never be able to take our system to another level.
This man is so talented I predict that if there is a slight political change on BESE he will be our State Superintendent of Education sooner than later. Unless recall elections are sought and this Board changes because of them we can expect 2 ½ years of more of the same if we don’t run out of money before.
Anthony J. Fontana, Jr.
Board President and District E Representative