GREENSBURG -- Kelli Joseph’s tenure as superintendent of St. Helena Parish schools got off to a rocky start, with audience members criticizing a lack of transition planning, disputing her pay package and raising concerns about looming job cuts.
The St. Helena Parish Board voted Thursday night to buy out the remaining 21 days of current Superintendent Daisy Slan’s contract and allow Joseph to start early, a move that provoked strong words from members of the public who packed the board’s meeting room.
“You have no transition plan in place,” the Rev. Carolyn Habersham told the board to a chorus of “amens” from many in the audience.
Habersham, who said she was a minister at Greater Turner Chapel AME Church in Greensburg, also criticized the pay package the board awarded Joseph and the fiscal hit the School Board would take by paying two superintendents for the remainder of June.
“We are already going to pay Dr. Slan through the end of the contract,” Board President Scott Galmon replied. “That’s no new expenses.”
Slan will receive a payment of just over $17,000, and she will donate her 27 accrued sick days to school employees who have exhausted their allotted sick time, she said after the meeting.
Habersham said Joseph planned to cut jobs without consulting with those who might be cut.
“I am more concerned that she would ask for removal of staff without even talking to that staff,” she said.
“I wish the room was filled the day we interviewed the superintendent with the number of people that are here today,” board member Linda Chaney told Habersham. “I could count on two hands the number of people that were there that day.”
After several minutes of back-and-forth, the board voted 4-2 to buy out Slan’s contract and to award the interim contract to Joseph.
Joseph will receive $4,965 in total compensation for the rest of June, the contract says.
Her regular contract, which begins July 1, pays her $103,000 per year plus a $300 monthly allowance for travel and other expenses.
“I will be in Saturday to get my office ready for Monday,” Joseph said after the meeting.
Joseph did not deny that cuts would be made, but said that she would try to keep the cuts as far as possible from the classroom.
“We need to reallocate to the teachers and the students,” she said.
Other business taken up by the board included:
RENOVATIONS: The board awarded a contract for renovating the district’s elementary and high schools to low bidder Block Construction, of Baton Rouge, which offered to perform the work for $466,000.
The renovations will be paid for through a Gulf Coast Recovery Grant received last year.