NEW IBERIA — Member Robbie LeBlanc walked out of the Iberia Parish School Board meeting Wednesday after it voted 8-5 against naming a new supervisor of child welfare and attendance.
Superintendent Dale Henderson had recommended appointing 36-year employee Darlene French to head up welfare and attendance.
But members Raymond Lewis, Clara Carrier, Kenric Fremin, Joel Dugas, Elvin Pradia, Kenneth Lockett, Edwin Buford and Rachel Segura voted against the appointment.
Robbie LeBlanc, Jesse McDonald, Kathleen Rosamond, Dan Segura and Danny LeBlanc voted for French.
Arthur Alexander was absent.
Robbie LeBlanc said he didn’t think the board should be interfering with Henderson’s decision-making process, adding he didn’t see why Henderson conducted interviews if the board was just going to vote down the recommendation.
“I say shame on us,” Robbie LeBlanc said.
He read his protestations from a three-page statement, but was interrupted by board Chairman Joel Dugas, who rapped his gavel and told Robbie LeBlanc that his time was up.
LeBlanc continued until Dugas threatened to recess the meeting.
LeBlanc then handed his statement to members of the news media and walked out of the meeting.
After the meeting, Pradia said he didn’t think French was qualified for the job because she has been working in the administrative office for the past 14 years. The supervisor of child welfare and attendance is similar to that of a truant officer, Pradia said. The position requires heavy involvement with students.
The supervisor meets with students at home, makes sure they are attending class, goes with them to court, meets with parents if there are disciplinary problems and works with the students in many other ways, Pradia said.
He added that he thought French had not worked closely enough with students to justify being in that position.
Pradia said the board members did not meet prior to Wednesday’s meeting to discuss the vote.
Pradia said he spoke to Henderson directly about his concerns.
Henderson said that French started out as a teacher, but then became Safe & Drug Free School Coordinator in addition to holding other administrative duties.
“Mrs. French would bring an unequaled work ethic and a sense of professionalism as is evidenced by her long employment at this school system,” Henderson said.
The superintendent will make another recommendation based on the remaining eight employees he interviewed and present them at the Sept. 7 board meeting.
Lockett asked that the board look at having a security guard at future meetings to make sure outbursts from board members or the public are handled properly.