School board takes advantage of lower rates

Michael Tortorich

DONALDSONVILLE – The Ascension Parish School Board Tuesday night moved to reissue $7.4 million in bonds.

By taking advantage of lower interest rates, the district could save some $571,000 over the bonds’ term, according to New Orleans-based bond attorney Jerry Osborne.

He described the current market as being in “extreme flux.”

“I have to warn you that none of us can predict the bond market or any market,” he told the board.

He said in the past the interest rates changed slowly, over the course of  years, but now it can change in a day.

“We’re going to have to pay attention to the markets,” he said.

The move could save the district nearly 7 percent on interest payments, Osborne said.

In other business, the board approved the purchase of video surveillance cameras for the parishes four high schools (Donaldsonville, Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant) and the Ascension Parish Alternative School in Darrow.

Superintendent Donald Songy said the security equipment and installation maximum cost would be $250,000.

Songy said the district would still try to negotiate a lower price.

The systems would give high school principals a “good tool” in maintaining security at the schools, Songy said.

He told the board installation work will begin as soon as possible.

In another matter, Songy told the board about the reward money for schools that met growth targets.

He said in the past schools would get as much as $30,000, but budget cuts have reduced the award to nothing more than a congratulatory banner.

“The money was motivational,” Songy said.

He credited Lowery Intermediate School in Donaldsonville as doing an “outstanding job” in its growth.

Songy proposed giving $5,000 to each school.

In a transportation issue, board member Kerry Diez said the district will advertise for 10 new regular buses and three new special education buses.

In another matter, the board voted to negotiate a contract with Pearson Education, a New Jersey company, to provide computer software to upgrade the district’s student information system.

The company’s initial proposal was more than the budgeted amount.

The board also heard about two upcoming events:

• The Louisiana School Board Association Convention will be in the Lake Charles Civic Center March 5. The convention is for board members, superintendents, assistant superintendents, school board attorney and other school personel.

• Board member Troy Gautreau reminded the board of the annual Stephen Richardson Memorial Tournament to be hosted by East Ascension High’s baseball team.

In another matter, the school board is asking for the public’s opinion in an online survey that has been up for several weeks.

The district’s Web site, located at apsb.org, is still conducting an assessment survey. The direct link is at apsb.org/publicsurvey.

The online survey is open to anyone in the Ascension Parish community.

More than 100 responses have been received so far.

The results of the survey will be used to help the board make decisions on resources and planning.