Despite school ban, embattled JP President Mike Yenni pushes for education improvements

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HARAHAN, La. (WGNO) - Embattled Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni held a press conference today to discuss an education initiative aimed at improving test scores in the parish's public schools.

The only problem? The Jefferson Parish School Board has banned Yenni from all school buildings and functions due to a sexting scandal involving Yenni and a then-underage boy.

Jefferson Parish Council Member Chris Roberts voiced his opposition to  Yenni's proposal for a task force on improving local education in a Facebook post Wednesday.

Roberts said he would not attend Thursday's press conference, citing the school board's unprecedented action against Yenni, who has steadfastly refused to step down despite a recall effort and tremendous public pressure.

"I cannot in good faith engage or participate in this endeavor," Roberts said. "I am certain this announcement will not be received well by some in our community, I felt making my position known was the appropriate thing for me to do."

Yenni expressed his regrets over Roberts' comments, especially since Roberts used to serve on the school board.

"Coming from a former school board member, I am a little disappointed because I would think he would get that grand aspect of education and think that that's important," Yenni said.

When asked about the specifics of Roberts' comments, Yenni was noncommittal.

"We can assume a lot of things," Yenni said of Roberts. "But you have to ask what he says, I think this will be taken very well by members of the community."

Recent reports show that Jefferson Parish Public Schools have dropped from a "B" letter grade to a "C," the third steepest decline in the state, due to lower high school state test scores.

Yenni said former Jefferson Parish School Superintendent Doctor Diane Roussel will head the task force of 17 people, and they would make recommendations to the school board on how to make improvements.

Yenni said the school ban wouldn't hamper his ability to effectively help the school system.

"You don't have to be on site to come up with recommendations," he said. "There are things called email and phone calls that we can certainly make and a board that can work with them. Again, I am not sure what they did was the right thing to do. Again, I think it was politically motivated at the time. Again, I've reached out to those school board members. This in no way shape or form is adversarial to them. It's not an political retribution or payback."

The task force's first meeting will be set sometime in February.

As for the Yenni recall petition, the group needs to obtain more than 90,000 signatures by April.