LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board plans to meet Monday to discuss candidates to serve as interim superintendent and timelines for finding a permanent replacement following the termination of Pat Cooper.
Board President Hunter Beasley said the board likely will decide on the appointment of an interim superintendent at a separate meeting on Tuesday. In the meantime, Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau is serving as the system’s chief administrator.
Beasley said Monday’s agenda also will include discussion of timelines for the search and selection of a new superintendent. A new board — which includes seven newcomers — takes office in January.
Depending on what the board decides in the way of timelines, it’s possible that a new superintendent could be hired before the new board takes office on Jan. 1, Beasley said.
“Either we could put one in or we’ll just see — or wait,” Beasley said. “The process needs to start, but the board will decide what the timelines are going to be.”
State law would allow the School Board to sign on a new superintendent as long as the contract doesn’t extend two years beyond the end of their current term, which ends on Dec. 31. State law also requires the board to advertise the vacancy and ask for applications. That public notice must be published at least 30 days before the board plans to fill the position.
The board voted 7-2 Thursday night to fire Cooper after finding him guilty on various charges, including noncompliance with state laws and board policies related to four of his management decisions as superintendent.
The management decisions involved the continual employment and payment of Thad Welch, a special assistant to the superintendent; the payment of Cooper’s legal bill without board approval in 2013; and the payment of some principals at a salary outside of the board-approved salary schedule.
The seven board members who voted to dismiss Cooper and in support of four of five charges against him were Greg Awbrey, Mark Babineaux, Melinda Mangham, Hunter Beasley, Tommy Angelle, Rae Trahan and Tehmi Chassion.
Voting against were Shelton Cobb and Kermit Bouillion.
The board did not find Cooper guilty of “unworthiness” for allegedly failing to meet the conditions of his contract due to the score of his job evaluation. The board voted 5-4 on that charge with board members Mangham, Awbrey, Cobb and Bouillion voting against.
Bouillion recommended Thursday that Cooper be suspended without pay for a month — from Dec. 1 through Jan. 5 — but only received support for his suggestion from Cobb.
Following the board’s vote to fire him Thursday, Cooper said he planned to appeal the decision. His attorney, Lane Roy confirmed Friday that Cooper would appeal the decision and seek to get his job back, as well as back pay.
The board selected Cooper as schools superintendent in December 2011. He took over from Burnell Lemoine, who was appointed interim superintendent in 2007 after the then-board ousted former superintendent James Easton by buying him out of his contract for $267,000.
Based on how long it took the board to hire Cooper, a rush job on the selection of a new superintendent would be out of character for the current board.
The board was slow to start its search to replace Lemoine, who had planned to retire at the end of 2011. While it voted in mid-May 2011 to conduct its own search rather than hire a search firm, it didn’t start interviewing candidates until October and the interviews continued through November. The interview process also involved board members visiting the communities of the finalists and an interview session where the public could ask finalists questions.
The board didn’t vote on its selection of Cooper as superintendent until mid-December 2011 with Cooper starting the job in January 2012.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.