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Pay raise remains a heated topic during Vermilion Parish School - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Pay raise remains a heated topic during Vermilion Parish School Board meeting

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ABBEVILLE, La. -

The very issue that put the Vermilion Parish School Board in the national spotlight is once again a contentious topic at Thursday's school board meeting.

Deyshia Hargrave was removed from the meeting and arrested after raising concerns about the superintendent's new contract and pay raise.

At Thursday night's meeting, there were not one but two rooms packed to capacity.

In one, Hargrave, whose arrest nearly 3 weeks ago motivated educators to have their voices heard.

"I don't want no punches thrown. Let's be calm and civilized. It's okay for this board to disagree," said the new board president, Stacy Landry.

On tonight's agenda, there was an item to discuss rescinding Superintendent Jerome Puyau's contract and $30, 000 raise.

"We're all in this together. Jerome, these are your employees, not mine," said the new vice-president of the board, Laura Lebouf. "I am asking you to hold off until we pass something for employees so we can look at this increase. We need to move forward and we need to ensure equity for all," said Vice President of the Vermilion Parish School Board Laura Lebouf. 

The board declined the motion to have his contract rescinded.

"For the past year, I lived without a contract, and it was probably the toughest year of my life," said Puyau, addressing the crowd of educators, school employees and parents. "I was 57th out of 69 districts in the state of Louisiana, but because of y'all, we are ranked number six in the state."

As he's previously done, Superintendent Puyau defended his raise, but teachers, perhaps inspired by Hargrave, had plenty to say. 

"The school board has said for so many years that there is no money. We have no paper in our classrooms; we're limited on supplies. We haven't gotten a pay raise in ten years, but we don't  say much about it because we're here for the kids," said one of the teachers, Jema Sedillo, who went to the podium to speak.

"After polling different teachers and parents, there was a list of concerns that were common to both groups. We want our children to have quality learning materials," said another teacher at the podium.

Many teachers shared the common frustration of having to pay out of pocket for their students' school supplies, causing financial stress in their personal lives.

While no action was taken Thursday, the board is open to working with teachers. 

"At the committee meeting, Mr. [Chris] Gautreaux gave a directive to start researching possibilities, so whenever our CFO reports back to us, then we can start looking at different options [for teacher raises]," said Lebouf.

"They would like to get a raise, too, and that's something we need to work towards. I mean, we need to see what we can do to raise their pay," said the board president.

As for the vacancy on the board left by Tony Fontana, who resigned amid the controversy, the board will appoint an interim member at its next meeting on February 5th.

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