OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish School Board agreed Thursday to use hearing officers in place of the board to decide employee disciplinary matters.
Superintendent Edward Brown said St. Landry is one of 11 school districts that have chosen to use arbitration when employees are subjected to disciplinary hearings.
In the past, employees facing discipline who requested a hearing appeared with their attorneys before the School Board, the superintendent and a hearing officer.
The board in the past served as the ultimate decision-maker during those hearings.
Board attorney Courtney Joiner told the board Thursday that a state law passed in 2014 eliminates board members from making decisions following disciplinary hearings.
Decisions under the new law are left to a hearing officer who acts as an arbitrator, Joiner said.
The list of hearing officers recommended by Brown and approved by the board include Richard Abell Jr., David Cook, Wayne Landry, Mark Boyer and Bart Hebert.
Joiner said the district’s personnel director and superintendent make initial decisions involving personnel.
“If action is taken concerning an employee, then the employee has a right to a hearing, which is now before the officer instead of the board. Terminating or hiring of employees is no longer a policy that concerns the board. It is the decision of the hearing officer,” Joiner said.
Joiner said using a hearing officer assures more neutrality in disciplinary hearing matters.
“There will be no ties to the board or employees at the hearing,” he said.
If employees do not agree with decisions of the hearing officer, they can appeal the decision to district and then appellate courts, Joiner said.
In another matter Thursday, several people speaking before the board asked for the reinstatement of Ricky Reed, a coach at Opelousas Junior High.
Board President Anthony Standberry confirmed that Reed and OJHS Principal Jude Victorian have been suspended with pay by the school system following an incident between the two men on campus last month.
A large number of students walked several miles from OJHS to the board meeting in order to ask for Reed’s reinstatement, resident Melvin Richard said.
Board member Hazel Sias told Richard that the board has no authority in the matter since it involves personnel.
Also, the board unanimously elected Standberry as board president. Raymond Cashmere was chosen unanimously as vice-president.