The Lafayette Parish School Board on Wednesday unanimously approved spending up to $65,000 to purchase about 4 acres of property behind its David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy.
There are no concrete plans for the property at this time, but the additional acreage borders the greenspace behind the school and would enable the development of athletic fields for the high school. The campus was designed for and first used as a middle school, and a $9 million expansion is near completion to provide adequate science classroom space, parking and an engineering workshop for the high school.
Also Wednesday, the school board unanimously approved revisions to the job description of its only employee — the superintendent. Assistant Human Resources Director Suzanne Thibodeaux said the recommended changes were submitted by the board’s attorney, Bob Hammonds. She said the attorney proposed the board revise the job description as it starts its search for a new superintendent. The former board that ended its term at the end of 2014 terminated then-superintendent Pat Cooper in November, and interim superintendent Burnell LeJeune recently announced his plans to retire in July. The board plans to fill the job in May.
The current job description for the superintendent of schools lays out major duties and responsibilities, as well as a list of requirements of the job. The revisions to the existing job description are minor, although at least one of the changes relating to the budget appears to take into account the prior board’s grievances against former Superintendent Pat Cooper which led to a majority of the board members’ decision to fire Cooper in November.
The existing job description states the superintendent: “prepares the annual budget and supervises the management of district’s funds.” Related to the budget, the proposed revised job description states the superintendent: “prepares for board consideration and action proposed annual budgets and budget amendments and supervises the management of district’s funds consistent with those board-approved budgets.”
Last year, Cooper and the former board had a persistent tug-of-war over the budget planning process which culminated with Cooper refusing to implement the board-approved budget because he claimed the board’s cuts to the budget would negatively impact instruction, particularly at low-performing schools. Cooper took his complaints to state district court, also claiming that the board didn’t follow proper procedures when preparing and approving the budget. A judge didn’t find that the board violated any state laws in the budget process and Cooper continued to implement the prior year’s budget after the judge’s decision. Cooper was terminated in November for reasons unrelated to the 2014-15 budget process, though his handling of the continual employment of Thad Welch as a special assistant to the superintendent after the board stripped funding in the budget for the job played a factor in his firing.
“That was put in there or suggested to avoid a repeat of what occurred with Dr. Cooper with regard to Thad Welch — where the board eliminated funding,” said Human Resources Director Bruce Leininger before Wednesday’s meeting.
The revised job description also includes a list of competencies, such as adaptability, dependability, honesty, cooperation and courteousness. Leininger said those competencies weren’t requested by the board, but are a standard list of “success skills” that is included in both new and revised job descriptions.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.