LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board decided Tuesday to interview 11 candidates for superintendent rather than 10 as a way to handle miscommunication that led to a candidate’s withdrawal last week.
After the School Board selected its top 10 candidates out of a pool of 26 applicants for interviews on Oct. 18, candidate Pat Cooper of New Orleans withdrew his application because he couldn’t start the job on Jan. 1, 2012.
The board’s search coordinating committee met on Oct. 21 to discuss the naming a replacement and recommended the next highest vote-getter — John Pate, principal of Scott Middle School.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, however, board president Mark Allen Babineaux said that Cooper requested his application be reconsidered.
In members’ hour-long discussion, it was disclosed that Cooper was informed that candidates who could not begin Jan. 1 would be disqualified.
“He’d like to continue with the process as he would have had he not been misinformed in the first place,” said board member Tehmi Chassion.
The board voted 5-3 on a motion to maintain the list of candidates selected on Oct. 18 and add Pate as the 11th candidate.
Board members Hunter Beasley, Mark Cockerham, Kermit Bouillion, Shelton Cobb and Chassion voted in support and members Rae Trahan, Mark Allen Babineaux and Tommy Angelle voted against.
Board member Greg Awbrey was absent.
Members Trahan and Angelle questioned why the board would consider a candidate who cannot begin work Jan. 1 — as the job advertisement stated.
The ad’s inclusion of a start date may have excluded other qualified candidates from applying, Trahan said.
“We should have advertised if we were going to make an exception,” Trahan said.
The meeting was held to discuss the potential replacement of Cooper as a candidate and to approve the set of questions that will be asked of candidates.
Trahan recommended that the questioning begin with whether the candidate can comply with a Jan. 1 start date, but the motion died in a 4-4 vote.
Bouillion, Babineaux, Trahan, and Angelle voted for adding the question with Chassion, Cobb, Cockerham and Beasley voting against.
Cockerham and Chassion argued that the question sets up a negative start to the interview process.
“Why is that negative?” Trahan asked.
“I just don’t think it should be the first question,” Cockerham said. He said the issue of start date has been “blown out of proportion” in the media already.
Members discussed that the start date may be negotiable depending upon who they find best suited for the job.
The interviews will be scheduled on the mornings of Oct. 31 and Nov. 3 and in the evenings of Nov. 1 and Nov. 4, and will be held at the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.
The board discussed limiting interview times to 10 minutes for the interviewee’s PowerPoint presentation, a 50-minute interview and 20 minutes for follow-up questions.
All candidates will be notified of the list of the nine questions that were approved 8-0 by the board.
They touch on the following topics: visionary leadership, resource management, plans to develop and maintain relationships with parents and community members, student performance, improving student discipline, School Board relations, improving teacher morale and teacher quality and how to address the district’s facility needs.