POSITION: Lafayette Parish School Board president
Tommy Angelle, who will begin his second term on the Lafayette Parish School Board as its president, says he views the leadership role as a way to put to good use his past experiences on and off the board — as a former educator and mayor of Carencro. Last year, Angelle was the board’s vice president. In the final months of his first term, the board fired the superintendent, appointed an interim and added nearly $6 million to the budget to cover expenses and staffing positions it had not initially approved. Angelle says he’s looking forward to working with the interim superintendent and building unity on the board, which includes seven new members.
It’s a new year and a new board. What do you think the board should focus on in the first few months of its term?
I’d like to see us focus on the budget and reorganization of the central office. The secondary focus in my mind would be the search for a superintendent. I would like to concentrate this year on the matters of hand: the budget and reorganization and see where we can put money to the best use.
So, you’d be in favor of putting off the superintendent search?
The superintendent search, as I envision it, and it would depend on the (views of the board) majority, would be this time next year. The way I would like to see it done is that we would bring a superintendent on in April or May of 2016 and work with the existing interim superintendent for a month or so, side-by-side.
What challenges do you think the school system needs to overcome?
The budget is going to be a big deal. It needs to be started this month. It really does. When you talk about a superintendent search, if the board would agree to bringing a superintendent in May that also would need to begin this month. I think the priority should be to get our house in order, relative to the budget, relative to the reorganization, then this time next year start — or earlier if they want — a search for superintendent.
Do you think there are other challenges aside from the budget?
I’m sure the challenges will arise, but the budget — we need to see if we can satisfy ourselves that we can sufficiently do what we need to do within the constraints of the budget. If not, do we need to ask for increases in revenue and if so, we have to present a united front — not on every issue, but if we do ask the public for money, we need to be united. I also think it’s absolutely necessary that we dedicate it and it not be used for any other purpose.
It sounds like there will be some discussion of a potential new tax this year.
Heavy on potential. I’m not convinced. We have a lot of personnel, which is the bulk of our budget. We have a lot of different personnel in a lot of different areas and I think it’s kind of like we don’t have our finger on exactly who’s doing what, where are they located and that kind of thing. I would first look at trying to live within our means. If all of us agree that we do need additional revenue, then we’d look at it that way.
Marsha Sills covers education for The Acadiana Advocate. Follow her on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.