LAFAYETTE — After a 10-minute discussion in executive session, the Lafayette Parish School Board approved the reinstatement of a school counselor who was placed on leave without pay following her January arrest on suspicion of laundering drug money.
The reinstatement of Chiffonia Jackson as a counselor at Charles M. Burke Elementary was approved in a 6-1 vote that included a list of other personnel changes. Her return is effective Aug. 5.
Board member Tehmi Chassion voted against the personnel change and Tommy Angelle abstained. Board member Greg Awbrey was absent.
Jackson has been on leave without pay since Feb. 2 following the January arrest of her and her husband, Carencro Middle School counselor Kenrard Broussard. Law enforcement officials have said the January arrest was related to Broussard’s May 2010 arrest on drug counts, which he’ll stand trial for in September.
No charges have yet been filed against Jackson or Broussard in relation to the money laundering arrest.
Jackson had previously been recommended for termination, but her hearing was postponed pending a decision on whether the District Attorney filed a formal charge against her.
Because the arrest count hasn’t been dropped, Burke Elementary parent Toni Hollier asked the board, “Why is her reinstatement even an issue?”
Parents are concerned about the impact her return will have on students, she said.
“They are very aware of the circumstances surrounding the arrest of (Jackson),” Hollier said of the students.
The board voted 7-1 to discuss Jackson’s reinstatement in executive session. Board member Rae Trahan voted against the private discussion and remained on the board floor during executive session.
Though parents came to the School Board meeting with 300 signatures against Jackson’s reinstatement, it was the appointment of two displaced administrators to open principal positions that dominated the board’s personnel discussions.
The board voted 5-3 against the appointment of Ken Douet — displaced as a principal after the closure of N.P. Moss Middle School — as principal of the Early College Academy.
In a 7-1 vote, the board approved the appointment of Nancy Cech as principal of Carencro Heights Elementary. Cech’s position as district academic auditor was eliminated by the board. Shelton Cobb was the only member voting against her appointment.
Voting against blocking Douet’s appointment were Mark Allen Babineaux, Tommy Angelle and Rae Trahan.
Last month, the board stalled Douet’s appointment as ECA principal in order to advertise for the position, but that action was nullified last week when the board adopted a policy revision on how it handles appointments of displaced contract employees.
Under the revised policy, displaced contract employees serve in their new appointments until the expiration of their existing contract.
Douet’s contract expires next summer while Cech’s contract ends in January — about four months from her 30-year anniversary of service. Cech’s attorney Ike Funderburk asked the board to consider extending Cech’s contract through the end of the school year.
Board attorney James Simon advised the board that “88 days won’t make much difference.”
The difference in her retirement benefits would be $200 a month, Cech informed the board.
“I intend to live a long time. In 10 years, that’s $24,000. In 20 years, that’s $48,000,” Cech said.
Lawrence Lilly, deputy superintendent of operations and human resources, told the board that because Cech is a tenured teacher, she will still be employed by the school system after her administrative contract expires.