What you see in the featured photo at the top of this blog is a teacher in Vermilion Parish being arrested at a special meeting called by the Vermilion Parish School Board to present, discuss and vote on a contract renewal for Superintendent Jerome Puyau. For just under two years, Supt. Puyau has been employed without a contract. At the time that his contract expired, for whatever reason, the board was unable to reach a consensus on the contents of the contract.
The Vermilion Parish School Board is comprised of eight members. For the better part of two years, four members were in favor of renewing Puyau’s contract and four were against. On November 20th of last year, one of the board members against the contract renewal, Luddy Herpin, passed away. The board president, Anthony Fontana, took advantage of the situation and brought an interim member who would support the contract before the board for approval to fill the seat until an election can be held. The appointment passed with a 4/3 vote.
On January 8, 2018, the board held a special meeting to vote on the contract renewal and provide Puyau with a $38,000 raise. The teachers of Vermilion Parish filled the room in opposition. The teachers of this parish have not received a raise in ten years. Puyau was hired as superintendent in 2012; however, the district has maintained a rating of B,or above, since the inception of the school grading system.
One of the teachers present, Deyshia Hargrave, was given permission to speak to the board on the issue. After she finished speaking, she sat down. Chatter and protests could be heard among the board members and the attendees. At some point, President Fontana addresses Hargrave, who is seated to his right, directly. She stands to respond. Fontana is distracted by the increased chatter to his left and comments to the effect that things are getting out of hand. At that exact moment, the City Marshall officer on duty enters the room. Seeing Hargrave standing and speaking, he approaches her and asks her to leave. In disbelief that she is being asked to leave while responding to a question directed at her, Hargrave initially resists. After realizing what is going on, she walks out of the room, and into the hallway, with the officer where he pushes her to the floor and handcuffs her.
Meanwhile, this publicly elected board sits quietly and allows this to happen not only to a taxpaying citizen engaged in a public meeting, but a teacher employed in their district who is calmly explaining why the raise is opposed.