School board to get report on Cooper on Tuesday, maybe Wednesday _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Pat Cooper participates in a forum of Acadiana-area School Superintendents Monday during a meeting of the Acadiana Press Club in Lafayette.

A majority of the Lafayette Parish School Board has disagreed with various management decisions by Superintendent Pat Cooper in the past two years, and on Thursday, the board will hear from its attorney whether those decisions translate into a cause to fire Cooper.

The board has called a 4 p.m. special meeting Thursday to receive a report from Dennis Blunt, the attorney the board hired to conduct the investigation of Cooper. The board’s general counsel, Bob Hammonds, has said that investigations are a common means to identify any potential charges to bring against a superintendent to start termination proceedings.

Cooper signed a four-year contract in 2012. Under state law, a board may fire a superintendent prior to the end of his or her contract for a number of reasons: incompetency, unworthiness or inefficiency; failure to fulfill the terms and performance of the contract; or failure to comply with school board policy.

If the board plans to terminate Cooper’s contract, it must notify him of the charges in writing and hold a hearing. Termination requires a two-thirds vote — or at least six votes — from the nine-member board.

Board members haven’t revealed the cause or reasons for the investigation, though Cooper said at the board’s Aug. 20 meeting that Blunt and an associate questioned him on seven issues:

  • The hiring and continued employment of Thad Welch, a special assistant to the superintendent who doesn’t have the education required for the job.
  • Seeking reimbursement of legal bills from attorney Lane Roy, whom the superintendent hired to represent him last year
  • Hiring an assistant director and director of transportation who did not have commercial driver’s licenses.
  • Closing the Lafayette Charter High program.
  • Hiring some principals last year at a different pay than other principals.
  • Entering into a memorandum of understanding with the state Department of Education for less than $10,000 without board approval.
  • Using public funds to hire a public relations firm for a property tax renewal.