LAFAYETTE — A request for an attorney general’s opinion about the Lafayette Parish School Board’s action on Aug. 17 allowing two non-board members on its superintendent candidate interview committee failed 4-5 Wednesday.
Board member Greg Awbrey challenged the legality of the action because a quorum of the board is also on the interview committee, making any action of the committee binding.
Awbrey, Rae Trahan, Mark Allen Babineaux and Tommy Angelle voted in favor of requesting an opinion. Board members Hunter Beasley, Mark Cockerham, Kermit Bouillion, Shelton Cobb and Tehmi Chassion voting against the resolution.
The split nearly mirrored the 5-3 vote on Aug. 17, which Awbrey wasn’t present for. The action allowed one representative each from the Lafayette Parish/Public Education Stakeholders Council and the 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette to sit with the board when it begins interviewing superintendent candidates in October.
The two non-board members will also have the chance to recommend their top choices.
Board member Hunter Beasley, who proposed the public representation on Aug. 17, said he wasn’t opposed to the request for an opinion, but said that, as written, the resolution for the opinion was open to interpretation.
Though Awbrey corrected the resolution to make it clear that the representatives have not been selected and added the interview and selection protocol process that was approved on Aug. 17, Beasley said he still couldn’t support it.
An opinion has also been requested from Hammonds & Sills, a Baton Rouge law firm specializing in education law, and should be expected within the next two weeks, said James Simon, the board’s attorney.
Board member Rae Trahan, who was one of three board members who opposed the Aug. 17 action, questioned why board members feared an attorney general’s opinion.
After the vote, she challenged the five opposing board members to bring a new resolution to the next board meeting “in a language that is palatable to you, so this can be sought and we all can work together.”
After the vote, Awbrey told board members he was disappointed that the board chose not to seek an outside opinion on its decision.
“Where are we going to go from here?” Awbrey said. “Because when we’re not comfortable asking a question, we’re going to refuse to ask it. There were two requests to amend an agenda item. It was honored and it still couldn’t garner five votes.”
Board vice president Shelton Cobb asked board members to move past the night’s decision and show the public that it is united. Election day is approaching, he reminded members, and a $561 million bond proposal to fund facility construction and repairs is on the Oct. 22 ballot.
“We need to start acting like we’re together or we’ll (experience) defeat,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, the School Board unanimously approved supplemental pay for teachers — a $1,443 check will be in the mail with teachers’ regular October paycheck.
The payout is the employees’ share of the excess $4.3 million from the district’s 2002 half-cent sales tax fund, which is dedicated to teacher raises, professional development and lower class size expenses.