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Board of Education member Saudargas responds to Sheffield’s public scolding
Posted By Jim Hagerty On February 24, 2011 @ 1:26 pm In Happening Now | 11 Comments
By Jim Hagerty
When Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield finished scolding Sub District-C board member Alice Saudargas at the Tuesday, Feb. 22 Board of Education meeting, Saudargas was quickly prevented from defending herself.
Thursday, Feb. 24, the board member responded to what she said were untrue statements and an issue that should not have been aired in a public forum.
Using her time allotted for the weekly Superintendent’s Report, Sheffield spoke of her relationship with former associate Noel Hammatt, stopping short of calling him a racist.
The superintendent also used the time to vent frustration about what she called a rumor involving Saudargas.
Sheffield claimed Saudargas, at Monday’s “Rally to Save our Public Schools” forum, alluded that she could not reach her to discuss the location of Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Sheffield said Saudargas never made an attempt to contact her, unless she did so Monday, Feb. 21, when the Administration Building was closed for Presidents’ Day.
“Ms. Saudargas made reference about being unable to locate me to discuss a possible change in venue for tonight’s meeting,” Sheffield said Tuesday. “For the record, Ms. Saudargas did not contact me by e-mail, or by the phone. Nor did she contact the staff at the Superintendent’s Office at all this week.
“The implication that I am not available to Ms. Saudargas is simply not true.”
Saudargas said she called Sheffield’s office early Tuesday and spoke with the superintendent’s assistant.
“What she said is false,” Saudargas said. “I called Tuesday morning and asked if I could speak to her. I was told she was in a professional meeting and could not speak to me.”
Saudargas said she called about a venue change because her requests in open sessions had not been properly addressed.
Sheffield took further digs at Saudargas Tuesday, saying she often misses private meetings without notice.
“Ms. Saudargas tends not to show up for scheduled one-hour meetings with me,” Sheffield said. “Not only does she not show up, but she doesn’t call to cancel.”
Saudargas said the superintendent’s statements were only speckled with truth, and reeked of fallacy.
“I missed one meeting with her,” Saudargas said. “And, it was my fault. I forgot and I made a mistake. But, I have never missed others. I am at every board meeting, special meetings and private meetings with her. What she’s said was uncalled for.”
Before she could respond to Sheffield Tuesday, Saudargas was stopped by Lisa Jackson (Sub District-A), who intervened to prevent an argument.
“I tried to respond,” Saudargas said. “But Lisa Jackson turned my light off. She advised me not to respond right away when people talk to you like that. Lisa was right. It would not have been a good idea to take on that public battle.”
According to Saudargas, the superintendent called her out Tuesday because of her attendance at Monday’s rally, which was hosted by Watchdogs for Ethics in Education (WEE).
During that session, Noel Hammatt was the group’s keynote speaker. Hammatt is a former vice president of the East Baton Rouge (La.) Parish School Board. At the time, Sheffield was running the Recovery School District and had a brief encounter with Hammatt.
In the encounter, Sheffield claimed Tuesday, Hammatt made racially charged remarks about the ability of minority students to learn in a public school setting.
“I think Sheffield really gave it to me because I was at Monday’s meeting,” Saudargas said. “And, because Mr. Hammatt was there, she didn’t like that a board member showed up.”
Fellow board member Jude Makulec (Sub District-D) and District 205 Chief Communications Officer Mark Bonne were also at the WEE rally Monday night.
Saudargas hoped to resolve tensions between her and the district head, but stands by her belief that Sheffield’s statements Tuesday were unprofessional and personally motivated.
“Here I am, one of her bosses,” Saudargas said, “and she did that.” “You don’t talk to people like that. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t true. If she had a problem with me, she should have spoken to me privately.
“I wouldn’t mind sitting down for a cup of coffee, friend-to-friend, but I know that probably won’t happen. I know where Dr. Sheffield is coming from. She likes to be in control.”
Saudargas did not comment on how the school board will vote Tuesday in terms of Sheffield’s $45 million budget-cutting plan, or whether the reported deficit of $50 million is correct.
She did, however, express her opinion of Sheffield’s leadership style.
“I’ve been involved in this community for many years,” Saudargas, 94, said. “I’ve been a deputy sheriff, I’ve worked with child protective services and in education. I’ve been around the mulberry bush.
“They made a mistake in hiring this person.”
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