superintendent of Lafayette Parish Schools

AGE: 60

HOMETOWN: Port Barre

Burnell LeJeune was the Lafayette Parish School System’s director of schools of choice and career and technical education before the Lafayette Parish School Board appointed him interim superintendent on Nov. 10,

days after voting 7-2 to terminate former superintendent Pat Cooper. LeJeune has 38 years of experience as an educator in Lafayette Parish and spent his first year teaching in St. Mary Parish. A few days before Christmas, LeJeune met with The Acadiana Advocate in his new office.

You now have about five weeks under your belt as interim superintendent. What’s surprised you most about this new role?

I think the thing that stands out is the number of people who want to visit with you about their concerns and their ideas. I didn’t think there’d be so many people who have concerns. That surprised me. Even in the grocery store — they want to stop and talk; in the barber shop. Also, personnel issues. I didn’t realize the number of issues that might come up and I should have with that many schools and that many employees.

What do people stop you to talk about?

They definitely have ideas on the budget. They want to talk about how maybe we could be more efficient in buses. A couple of principals have suggested that maybe they could decide about (staffing) on their campuses. A couple of principals have said, ‘Mr. LeJeune, maybe we could decide if we want a dean of students or an extra social worker on our campus.’ That’s something that I’d like to bring to the board.

How would you characterize the current status of the school system?

First of all, I think we have really good people in the system. We have people who care about kids, who want to do the best for kids … . As we begin the new budget season, I’m a little concerned that we may have another shortfall. I don’t know by how much. I know we’ll need to make some tough decisions about departments, programs to have a balanced budget. I’m a little concerned about teachers in the classroom and turnover. If we lose one good teacher, I’m concerned. I know we’ve had some turnover and I want to delve into why is that.

What’s your New Year’s resolution for the school system?

I think it’s for the administration and the board to have good communication. The second resolution would be to listen to the people of the system as we begin the budget process.

Marsha Sills is a staff writer for The Acadiana Advocate. Follow her on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.