LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board selected retired educator Melinda Mangham on Monday as its choice to fill the unexpired term of former board member Mark Cockerham.
Shortly after the board voted 7-1 to appoint Mangham, she took the oath of office and was sworn in by Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret. Her term ends Dec. 31.
Mangham received the sole nomination from board members, though Cockerham had recommended the board appoint another District 7 resident, Jenny Krueger, executive director of the Acadiana Symphony and Conservatory of Music, who was interested in getting the position.
Board member Shelton Cobb voted against Mangham.
In addition to Mangham and Krueger, two others formally expressed an interest in the position and submitted résumés for the board to consider in advance of Monday’s special board meeting: Dan Jenkins, a research and development manager for an oil field services company; and William Thornton, an attorney. Both men’s wives are teachers in the system.
Before the board voted, Cockerham asked members to consider his recommendation.
“I’d appreciate it if the board would put someone in who has my values … because voters deserve that,” Cockerham said.
Mangham will participate in Superintendent Pat Cooper’s Nov. 5 administrative hearing where the board may vote to take disciplinary action against Cooper. During the hearing, Cooper will have a chance to defend himself against five charges that could be cause for his termination.
Following her appointment, Mangham said she’ll base her decision on the issues after hearing evidence presented at the hearing.
Mangham replaces Cockerham, who moved out of District 7 according to district maps in effect until Dec. 31. Cockerham resigned from the seat effective Oct. 16.
Cockerham announced his decision to vacate the seat Oct. 7 — a day after an assistant district attorney told him in a letter that if he didn’t vacate his School Board seat, he could face a lawsuit filed by the district attorney.
“I’m sorry for the circumstances,” Mangham said of her appointment to the board.
Mangham said she’s lived in District 7 for more than 30 years and it’s an honor to serve the district where she ended her career in the classroom.
She’ll have a short term of service on the board. Aside from Cooper’s Nov. 5 hearing, the board has four regular meetings scheduled between now and Dec. 31.
In that time, Mangham said, she’ll advocate for teachers and students, work to promote the achievements in the school system and build support for public education.
“I believe education is the economic engine that drives the community,” Mangham said.
Cockerham’s move didn’t impact his candidacy for the School Board in the Nov. 4 election because his new address is within District 7 based on redistricting maps that take effect in January.
Last month, former Lafayette Parish administrator Nancy Cech filed a complaint with the District Attorney’s Office and also filed a lawsuit in district court against Cockerham, both of which challenged his residency status for his current term.
Cockerham’s challenger in the Nov. 4 election, Dawn Morris, joined the lawsuit.
While both women offered to drop the lawsuit following Cockerham’s decision to vacate the office, Cockerham refused. He has asked the court to sanction Morris, who is an attorney, because he claims the lawsuit was filed without right and for improper political purpose. He also alleges that Morris wrote Cech’s initial petition, which was filed without an attorney on record. Morris has denied the claims. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.