The Iberia Parish School Board’s relationship with its insurance agent was called into question Wednesday, provoking an impassioned response from agent James Perez about DJW Insurance’s longstanding relationship with the school system.
The issue was brought up after board member Brad Norris remarked that the school system was only presented with one insurance plan option this year which has caused some disgruntled school system employees to complain the IPSB isn’t getting the best possible option.
“I think we do owe it to the teachers to bid this out, to talk with other insurance agencies and providers to see what they have to offer, and we can’t wait until October of 2020 to do this,” Norris said.
“I would ask the president that come mid-January, to ask the administration to start conversations with other insurance agencies so we can start interviewing to see what else we can offer to Iberia Parish.”
Perez, an agent with DJW Insurance, took to the stand and said that as long as the school board wished to be fully insured, United Healthcare and Blue Cross were the only options.
He also added that those questioning his insurance agency weren’t aware of all the things that the agency does for the school system.
“It is clear that some of the new board members have no idea of the relationship that DJW has with the school system, how intricately high end we are with the school system,” Perez said.
“We are an extension of the system, an extension of the payroll. We have staff who are committed and work full-time for the school system.”
Perez added that DJW takes the bare minimum of 1 percent commission, and has saved the school system millions of dollars.
“Just to clarify, I’m not questioning DJW, my whole purpose of this is that we have teachers saying, ‘How do we know we’re getting the best deal?’ and we have one option presented when they know there’s multiple agencies out there.”
Perez said that different agencies can’t negotiate different rates for the school system, and reiterated the relationship his agency has had with the IPSB.
“If you’re going to entertain other agencies, I would suggest you ask, ‘Hey, can you do this?’” Perez said, pointing to a list of responsibilities DJW has for the school system.
“The difference is going to be the commitment to this school system on providing proper service. We’re a local agency, we’ve been in this town since 1909, if you call you’re going to speak to someone.”
Board member Rachel Segura thanked Perez for the information, saying that she had received multiple complaints about the insurance.
“One of the comments I’m hearing often is the school system is one of the largest accounts (for DJW), that’s why they don’t want to bid it out,” Segura said. “Now I can go back to my constituents and try to get those disgruntled employees to see what’s really going on.”
Board member Mike Mayeux said that the board has the responsibility to review its relationships with insurance agents.
“I have nothing against DJW, they may be the best broker on earth, but we have a fiduciary responsibility to review professional relationships at least once a year,” he said.
“We do it monthly,” board member Jim McDonald responded. “We talk about it monthly, all the problems and what we’re doing in the future. We’re not buying paper products, this is insurance, there’s a lot more involved. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
In other business, Superintendent of Schools Carey Laviolette announced that St. Charles Elementary Principal Devon Jones will be leaving the school to take a job with the National Institute for Excellence and Teaching.
Laviolette said the administration had interviewed Lenette Hawk-Hill for the job, and she will be replacing Jones on Oct. 15.
Jones’ departure comes after the merger of St. Charles and Jeanerette Elementary schools at the beginning of this school year. Hawk-Hill, the former principal of St. Charles Elementary, served as an administrative assistant since the merger, and will be returning to her old position.
“The school is small and will not meet the requirement to have an administrative assistant,” Laviolette said. “We are not going to hire one but she will have two master teachers to help with the leadership team.”