OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish School Board on Thursday on a 6-5 vote agreed to retain an option to buy out Edward Brown’s contract, even though the school district may not have the money to do so.
Brown’s contract as St. Landry schools superintendent doesn’t end until Dec. 31.
In April the board voted against renewing for at least one year Brown’s current three-year contract. Brown was selected superintendent in May 2013. He has said he plans to work in the school district until his contract expires.
Brown attended Thursday’s board meeting, but he did not speak about the matter.
St. Landry, which is anticipating a general fund deficit of $2 million when the 2015-16 fiscal year ends Friday, cannot afford to pay two superintendents, said board member Kyle Boss.
Brown’s contract pays him a base $128,000 annual salary.
But finding a replacement has been slow going, with the board agreeing only Thursday to begin the process of setting criteria for a new superintendent.
Board member Hazel Sias said the board is “dragging its feet” in deciding when to begin the selection process.
“It’s June and we still haven’t started. Then it’s going to be December and we still don’t have anybody,” Sias said.
Board member Milton Ambres agreed. “We need to start now, not next week. Then it’s going to be next month and then next year. We need to have someone is place when school starts and that means looking for someone now,” Ambres said.
But hiring a new superintendent while Brown’s contract is still in force may be a financial stretch, said board member Donnie Perron. “Where are you going to get the money to pay two superintendents?”
Voting for the option to buy out Brown’s contract were Ambres, Sias, Randy Wagley, Albert Hayes, Mary Ellen Donatto and Raymond Cassimere. Voting against were Huey Wyble, Boss, Perron, Candace Gerace and Anthony Standberry.
Board members Charles Ross and Roger Young did not attend Thursday’s meeting.
The board agreed on an 8-3 vote to begin the search and to discuss at its July 7 meeting preliminary issues such as how and when to start advertising process, the educational qualifications for the applicants, a deadline for submission of applications and a salary range. Voting “no” were Perron, Wyble and Boss.
Board attorney Bob Hammonds told the board the most important aspect in selecting a superintendent is to ensure the process is equitable for all the candidates.
“You want to be sure there can be no accusations by any of the candidates about unfairness,” Hammonds said. “They might not be happy about not being selected, but you want to make sure none of them can complain about the process was not fair.”