LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board will meet next week to consider a list of positions interim superintendent Burnell LeJeune wants to add to the 2014-15 budget, but Thad Welch’s job isn’t one of them.
Welch, whose hiring fueled tensions between the School Board and former Superintendent Pat Cooper, was fired last week. Welch was the special assistant to the superintendent handling facilities, grounds, maintenance and transportation since March 2012 and prior to that worked on a contract basis for the board after Cooper stepped into the superintendent role in January 2012.
Cooper’s refusal to fire Welch, who didn’t possess the required high school education for the position, factored into the board’s Nov. 6 decision to fire Cooper.
Welch’s termination was effective Nov. 26, based on a list of employee terminations and resignations posted with the Lafayette Parish School Board’s agenda for its Wednesday meeting.
Welch declined to comment about his termination or cite the reasons he was given for the cause of his firing when reached by phone Monday but said he has an attorney, Lane Roy.
Roy could not be reached for comment Monday by phone or email.
The Lafayette attorney also represents Cooper, whose request for a judge to overturn the board’s Nov. 6 decision to fire him is still pending. The School Board will discuss Cooper’s wrongful termination claim with its own attorney in executive session during its Wednesday meeting.
On Monday, LeJeune said Welch’s termination is a personnel issue, so he couldn’t discuss the matter.
“In general, we have a board-approved budget and in the budget are things like contracted services and staffing,” LeJeune said. “We’re trying to move forward with the board-adopted budget. The position of special assistant is not in the board-approved budget.”
The board adopted a 2014-15 budget on Sept. 15; however, Cooper refused to implement the spending plan based on his concerns that the board’s cuts would negatively impact the system and his claims that the board failed to follow state laws in its preparation and adoption of the budget. So, since July 1, the district had been operating using 50 percent of last year’s budget as its spending plan.
Operations continued under last year’s budget even after Cooper’s termination until Nov. 19 when the board voted for staff to implement the adopted budget. Because the district has been operating on last year’s budget, some positions were filled that are not in the 2014-15 budget.
The board voted to defer any staffing changes until Dec. 31 to allow time for LeJeune to make a case for his budget. LeJeune said those details will be disclosed during a special budget meeting to be held early next week.
When asked why Welch’s termination happened ahead of the special budget meeting, LeJeune said the special assistant job was not included in his recommended budget revisions.
The board voted in early 2013 to rescind its decision to hire Welch after members learned he didn’t meet the educational requirements.
After the vote, Cooper refused to fire Welch, saying he had no grounds to terminate him. The board voted in April 2013 to remove the line-item funding for Welch’s position; however, Cooper continued to keep Welch on staff.
The board formally reprimanded Cooper for not following the board’s directives to eliminate Welch’s position.
The board hired an attorney to investigate Cooper, which led to its 7-2 vote on Nov. 6 to terminate him based on his retaining Welch and two other management decisions — paying some principals different salaries than the board-approved salary schedule and paying Cooper’s $5,100 legal bill to Roy without board approval.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.