LAFAYETTE - Lafayette Parish School Board member Greg Awbrey has requested a legal opinion on the board’s 5-3 vote on Aug. 17 to include two residents in the interview and selection process for a new superintendent to replace Burnell Lemoine, who is retiring.
At issue is whether it’s legal for the board to allow non-board members to serve on a full board committee that will select the superintendent, Awbrey said. His request will be discussed during the board’s 5:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday.
The School Board also has set up public forums to gather input on desired qualifications for the next superintendent and the district’s priorities. The next such forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Acadiana High School with two other forums slated at 6 p.m. Sept. 13 at Northside High and Sept. 22 at Comeaux High.
The superintendent search committee’s recommendation for a selection process was first presented to the School Board at its Aug. 3 meeting with action scheduled on Aug. 17.
At the Aug. 17 meeting, board member Hunter Beasley submitted a motion to add representatives - one each - from the Lafayette Public Education Stakeholders Council and the 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette to the superintendent interview and selection committee.
All School Board members serve on the interview and selection committee. The board’s 5-3 vote enabled the two members of the public to serve on the interview and selection committee and to submit a recommendation on their top choices for the job.
Voting with Beasley in favor of his proposal were Kermit Bouillion, Mark Cockerham, Shelton Cobb and Tehmi Chassion. Board President Mark Allen Babineaux, Rae Trahan and Tommy Angelle voted against Beasley’s proposal.
Awbrey did not attend the Aug. 17 board meeting.
“I don’t believe this could be legal, but as of this time I have found no case or law addressing it,” Awbrey stated in the summary submitted with his agenda request. “This may be because it is so far-fetched and would seemingly infuriate the voters that an elected body would abdicate their authority, that it has never been tried before now.”
Rather than seek a legal opinion on his own, Awbrey said, he wanted the board to take a vote and “be together on it.” In his request for a legal opinion, Awbrey also claims that Beasley’s motion conflicts with Robert’s Rules of Order.
While substitute motions are allowed, Beasley’s motion was more substantial and also created a committee “that must be handled as a separate issue,” Awbrey stated in his agenda request.
Beasley said he would like an answer on whether the board’s Aug. 17 action was indeed a “procedural error.”
“If something was done improper, that needs to be addressed,” Beasley said. “I would still like to see some members of the public on what I call the interview committee.”
Beasley’s suggestion to include members of the public on the “interview committee” had been debated previously by Babineaux.
Beasley, Babineaux and Angelle are the three School Board members who have coordinated the search efforts so far.
Babineaux has said that such public participation in the selection process dilutes the board’s authority to select a superintendent.
Beasley has said the board has a practice of receiving recommendations from citizen or staff committees and the board has the option to accept or reject them.
The difference is that a full committee of citizens making recommendations to the board has “zero authority,” Awbrey said
“If you have a committee and a quorum of the board, the authority is there,” he said.
Awbrey did not offer specifics on whom he would seek the legal opinion from or when.
Public involvement in the interviews ensures its participation in each step of the search process, Beasley has said.
Residents will also have a chance to address the top three candidates for superintendent during a forum in November while interviews could begin in October and a selection could be made in December. As of mid-August, 11 people had applied for the post.