Archive for the ‘St. Helena Schools’ Category

Tangipahoa Update – 6/11/11


Subpoenas ‘coercive’ – Tangipahoa members fight testimony order

The attorney for two Tangipahoa Parish School Board members said Friday that he will move to quash subpoenas that would compel the pair to give depositions in an attempt to determine if they are in contempt of court.

School Board members Sandra Bailey Simmons and Brett Duncan have been called to give testimony under oath on whether statements they made in the months leading up to the historic April defeat of four school tax proposals were in contempt of court, said Nelson Taylor, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney and the one who called for the depositions.

Lawyers Wax Fat off Tangi School Deseg Case


Lawyers have sopped up two thirds of the taxpayer money spent on the Tangipahoa parish school desegregation suit Moore v Tangipahoa, according to documents obtained this morning by Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO).

Right at $2 million of the $3 million total was spent on both plaintiff and defense lawyers in the case. The remainder went to salaries for school employees, consulting fees and election costs.

See here the documents.

An April 30 tax to pay for a court-ordered plan in the case went down to defeat by an 88 to 12 margin.

See here The (Baton Rouge) Advocate story.

Case costs board $3 million – Lawsuit first filed 46 years ago

In a related development, two of the Tangipahoa School Board members who opposed the tax – Brett Duncan and Sandra Simmons – are targets of a contempt of court motion filed by plaintiff attorney Nelson Taylor.

Contempt of court: Duncan and Simmons targeted for opposing taxes

A motion filed by plaintiffs’ counsel last month in the longstanding Joyce Marie Moore federal desegregation lawsuit has at least two Tangipahoa Parish School Board members facing the possibility of contempt of court charges.

Freshman board member Brett Duncan revealed on his Facebook page Monday evening that he and veteran board member Sandra Bailey Simmons have been named “targets” of a plaintiff motion calling for board members to be held personally in contempt of Judge Ivan Lemelle’s instructions related to the April 30 tax election.

Tangipahoa Schools Update – 6/4/11


Talks continue over Tangipahoa desegregation

Compromise set? Board looks to possible announcement Tuesday as both sides hammer out deseg agreement

Analysis: Tangipahoa School Board allows lawyers to decide deseg case

Tangipahoa Update – 6/1/11


Tangipahoa board discusses case

The Tangipahoa Parish School Board met for nearly five hours behind closed doors Tuesday, but took no official action in its 46-year-old desegregation case.

Board member Brett Duncan read a short statement from board members after they emerged from the meeting.

“After much discussion, we have authorized our attorneys to continue discussions with plaintiffs,” he read. “The President of the Board has called an additional special meeting for Friday, June 3.”

Board President Rose Dominguez said the board’s attorneys were scheduled to meet with plaintiffs’ attorneys Thursday, and that she hoped they would be able to come to an agreement that would satisfy U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle, who presides over the desegregation case.

Tangipahoa Update – 5/19/11


Forget Plan B: Plaintiffs ask Judge to hold School Board, Kolwe in contempt

Plaintiffs’ counsel in the longstanding Joyce Marie Moore desegregation lawsuit against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board are calling for sanctions to be taken by the federal court against the local School Board and School Superintendent Mark Kolwe both as parties to the suit and individually.

In an official JMM court filing, Document 925, which was entered into the public record Wednesday, plaintiffs’ attorney Nelson Dan Taylor and co-counsel James Gray allege that “deliberate obstructions to the process of desegregation and deliberate defiance of the orders” by the Tangipahoa Parish School System are just cause for sanctions against the nine board members and Kolwe.

The eight-page motion, accompanied by a seven-page memorandum of support and a single-page proposed order calling for a hearing on the accusations, call for the judicial placement of a special master who would take control of the district over and beyond the control of current school system officials.

Suit: Officials defied order

Tangipahoa Parish’s School Board and school superintendent are in contempt of court and should be sanctioned, a motion filed Wednesday by plaintiffs’ attorneys in the school system’s 45-year-old desegregation suit alleges.

The eight-page motion, filed by plaintiffs’ attorneys Nelson D. Taylor and James Austin Gray II, asks U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle to sanction the Tangipahoa Parish School Board members and Superintendent Mark Kolwe.

The motion alleges that the board and superintendent have implemented discriminatory hiring practices; defied the advice of Desegregation Compliance Officer Arlene Guerin; created a hostile work environment for Chief Desegregation Implementation Officer Lynell Y. Higgenbotham; and used the desegregation plan and magnet programs as a ruse to continue a segregated school system.

Tangi School Tax Update – 5/5/11


Social media used by foes to beat taxes

The April 30 school tax election in Tangipahoa Parish was historic for two reasons: the record turnout and the large margin of defeat.

Approximately 87 percent of the voters rejected each of the four tax proposals in a resounding defeat that was the biggest Dufreche could remember.

In Tangipahoa Parish, the “organized opposition” used the Internet, especially sites such as YouTube and Facebook, to make their case time and time again.

The locus for much of the anti-tax activity was the website (ActionNews 17), run by Independence-based Ken Benitez.

Benitez boasted on his site the Monday after the election that was getting 12 million hits per month, and he claimed the impact could be seen in the election results.

Benitez posts numerous video interviews with local politicians and public figures, many of whom were against the tax proposals.

The site also hosts forums that invite users to comment on various topics. As of Monday morning, about 700 replies had been posted to the site’s “Tax Propositions” forum.

Tangi School Tax Update – 5/2/11


New media played central role in historic tax election

On one side of the campaign were newspaper and radio ads, direct mail, and by some measures, an almost unlimited budget.

On the other side were a couple of web sites, Facebook, two cable TV channels and YouTube.

Not only did the new media win, but it wasn’t even close.

Tangipahoa voters rejected four school board tax propositions by 87.5%, arguably the largest margin of defeat for any tax in the parish’s history.

But in past years when newspapers and direct mail were dominant, such an outcome would have been unthinkable.

To say the least, Wayne Glascock and Ken Benitez are happy about the election. The two local broadcasters are partners in Internet television and local news online, and they admittedly used their media to relentlessly cover the election. In particular, they provided most of the media by which tax opponents spread their message.

Benitez has worked in local radio, television, and print for almost 30 years, but he now says, “The Internet has trumped everything.”

His is now averaging 12 million hits per month, “And that impact was obvious in the election results.”

Glascock, who has been active in politics for many years, says he has never seen a campaign like the school board tax election.

“The school board had a pre-established and openly discussed budget of $100,000, not counting what was spent by any special interest parties who wanted to pass the taxes. We made a decision early on that we wouldn’t accept a penny. Our motive was simply to do the right thing, and it provided a great demonstration project for our new media. We simply believed, based on numerous tax elections over the last 10 years, that without our coverage, the school board would have passed the biggest local tax increase in the state’s history”.

Unlike past Vote No efforts, there was no fund-raising committee to collect money. Instead, people literally bought or built their own yard signs.

The pair were in the process of developing new programming and features for their respective media venues when the tax package came back to the table for a very public vote.

The videos popped up on Facebook walls throughout the parish as younger voters started their own “linking” campaign to spread the word.

Even the local NAACP, which operates its own website,, linked AN17’s videos on their site.

The new media linking opportunities were endless, Glascock said.

Tangi School Tax Fallout – 5/1/11


Tax opponents plan next moves

The popular uprising that resulted in the overwhelming defeat of the school board’s tax propositions on Saturday is now poised to cause more problems for Superintendent Mark Kolwe and his seven allies on the board.

On Sunday, leaders of the Vote No movement vowed to do three things:
1) Begin recall efforts against at least three board members.
2) Raise the $300,000 needed for a forensic, or federal compliance audit of school system funds.
3) Increase public attendance at school board meetings, and public involvement in the politics of the school system.

While most tax opponents would consider replacing Kolwe with a new superintendent a top priority, they simply believe the current board won’t do it.

On the other hand, there is an online petition drive to fire Kolwe.
Concerning recall drives, most of the seven school board members who voted to put the four tax propositions on the April 30 ballot were elected or reelected last fall while promising not to do it. And most of their contests were close.

The forensic audit has been a goal of school board critics for years. Their case was recently buttressed by the recent accusation that the secretary of the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center embezzled $1.3 million from the facility over three years—during which time annual audits turned up no wrongdoing.

While the school board is also audited annually, obviously many financial questions remain unanswered.

CB Forgotston comments on Tangipahoa School Board election

School Board Member Sandra Simmons and other tax opponents celebrate win

OCC Tax Defeated 3 to 1; Tangi School Tax Clobbered; Ruston School Tax Passes


The four Tangipahoa parish school taxes were defeated by a historic margin – 88% no, 12% yes. The tax hike for the Ouachita Correctional Center (OCC) was also defeated by a 3 to 1 margin. Ruston school district’s tax extension handily passed, .

See here the numbers.

Tangipahoa Parish

Ouachita Parish

Lincoln Parish

Tangi School Tax Update – 4/27/11


From our friend C. B. Forgotston, there is this analysis that you won’t see anywhere else.

Sick of it!

The voters of Tangipahoa Parish have been and are continue to be told by the local and Baton Rouge media that if we don’t pass the massive school property and sales taxes on Saturday’s ballot Federal Judge Ivan Lemelle will simply order the taxes be imposed.

Despite my efforts to enlighten the media or at least offer a different point of view (Balance as the media calls it.), you have not read and will not read anything contrary in the print media. It doesn’t fit their agenda of supporting these taxes.


Initially, the judge said that he could impose the taxes himself. When he finally got around to reading the Federal jurisprudence, he backed-off that position. Now, according to the media, the judge can order the school board to impose the taxes on its own volition.

Any (state or federal) judge can issue an order that the sun shall rise in the west, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. Same with ordering a school board to do something which it has no authority to do.


The Louisiana Constitution prohibits the imposition of local property and sales taxes without approval of a majority of the voters who vote in an election for that purpose in the affected area. (See LA Const. Article VI, Section 29(A) and Art. VIII, Section 13(C) 3rd Paragraph.)

If Judge Lemelle orders the Tangipahoa Parish School Board to raise sales and property taxes, the board must appeal the order to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal because they would be violating their oath to uphold the laws of Louisiana. (LA Const. Article X, Section 30).

My opinion

The above is an opinion you’ve not seen in the print media because they will not publish it.

I’m not a law professor nor am I legal scholar. I’m merely a taxpayer in Tangipahoa Parish, am licensed to practice law in Louisiana and have taught at a couple of Louisiana law schools.


Early turnout strong in Tangipahoa tax vote

Early voting in Saturday’s Tangipahoa Parish school tax election climbed to unprecedented levels, officials said Tuesday. The high turnout among early voters could indicate that overall voter participation numbers could approach 50 percent, which would be virtually unheard of, said John Russell, Tangipahoa Parish registrar of voters.

Nearly 4,000 voters cast ballots in the early voting period, which ended Saturday, he said.

“Historically, millage elections do not have large turnouts unless there is organized opposition,” said Julian Dufreche, Tangipahoa clerk of court. “In this case, there is organized opposition.”