New Superintendent Donald Aguillard will start work May 18 with a $205,000 salary with the opportunity for an annual raise of up to $5,000, if he meets five performance objectives to raise student achievement in the parish.
The Lafayette Parish School Board unanimously approved a four-year contract for Aguillard, who attended Wednesday’s meeting and is wrapping up his work as superintendent in St. Mary Parish.
“I want to compete for those other students who have not yet chosen the Lafayette Parish School System,” Aguillard told the board after its vote. “We’re going to be working hard, aggressively to take care of these facilities’ needs. … We’re going to make a serious effort to improve instruction.”
A draft of the contract was not presented with the agenda.
Aguillard also will receive a $20,000 reimbursement allowance annually for expenses such as his vehicle, cellphone and life insurance costs, plus an additional $4,000 to cover additional expenses, said board member Erick Knezek, who shared a copy of the contract with The Acadiana Advocate.
The five performance objectives involve closing the achievement gap in the parish by more than 2 percent over the prior year; reducing the percentage of over-age children (those who are behind two grade levels) over the prior year; increasing high school graduation rates by more than 1 percent annually; increasing the percentage of students scoring 18 or higher on the ACT over the prior year; and increasing the percentage of elementary and middle school students scoring proficient or above on state exams.
Aguillard’s salary as superintendent in St. Mary Parish is $187,897 — though that includes a $14,400 annual supplement to cover his expenses and his $1,497 Professional Improvement Program payment. That salary is just shy of the $190,000 the Lafayette Parish School Board worked out for former Superintendent Pat Cooper in late 2011. The board terminated Cooper in November. Interim Superintendent Burnell LeJeune plans to retire this summer, which prompted the board to expedite a search and selection for a new superintendent.
The board unanimously selected Aguillard on April 22 following interviews with him and Francis Touchet Jr., a former Erath High School principal who works for the Louisiana Department of Education.
During Wednesday’s meeting, board members frequently asked Aguillard to weigh in on discussions and for his opinion on issues, such as a proposal before the board to transition the small neighborhood school of Myrtle Place Elementary to a French immersion-only campus starting in August. Aguillard said he supports the plan as a “great opportunity to create a total immersion campus.”
The board voted 7-1 to approve the proposal, which phases out non-immersion students at the school starting with incoming kindergarten students in August. The plan affects only incoming kindergarten students and not students currently enrolled in the school. Those new kindergarten students will be zoned for S.J. Montgomery or Broadmoor Elementary schools depending upon where they live, and their older siblings who attend Myrtle will be given the option to follow them to the new school.
Board member Tehmi Chassion voted against the proposal and Justin Centanni abstained. Board members Elroy Broussard, Britt Latiolais, Dawn Morris, Tommy Angelle, Knezek, Mary Morrison and Jeremy Hidalgo voted in support of the proposal.
In the past two years, the school system moved French immersion classes at S.J. Montgomery and Alice Boucher Elementary to Myrtle Place because of low enrollment in French immersion on those campuses, which produced a savings of $317,000, said Nicole Boudreaux, world language specialist.
In the upcoming school year, the savings is estimated from $68,000 to $136,000.
There are only three non-immersion kindergarten students who have registered at Myrtle for the 2015-16 school year, though it’s likely those numbers will increase before school starts in August, Boudreaux said.
“Traditionally, in the past two to three years, it’s no more than 25 to 26 (non-immersion) kindergarten students,” Boudreaux said.
For about 40 minutes, the board discussed the need to redraw the lines for school zones to help balance student populations throughout the parish. The matter was on the agenda as an informational item only, and no action is pending. Morris asked the board to consider deferring a suggestion that the board create a committee to review the issue until Aguillard started work.
Aguillard told the board he’d like time to meet with staff and evaluate enrollments and programs like schools of choice that allow students to attend schools out of their zones.
“I’m excited about this possibility for Lafayette. We’ve got some staggering issues with facilities — overcrowding, underutilization,” he said, and added that the review process will start within the next two to three months.
“I’d like to have it be very deliberate, very thoughtful and open to the public so we can explain why we need to do this,” he told the board.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.