CLINTON — After two special meetings, two extended deadlines for applications and two rounds of voting, the East Feliciana Parish School Board decided Tuesday to let Gov. John Bel Edwards name an interim board member to succeed District 1 member J. Curtis Jelks, who resigned.
The board had until March 24 to act on Jelks’ resignation, but none of the three applicants to succeed him got a majority of the votes cast by seven members at Tuesday’s meeting. Board President Michael Bradford abstained on both ballots.
Board member Broderick Brooks Sr., who seemed irked by the impasse, then offered a successful motion to let Edwards pick Jelks’ successor, and the meeting adjourned.
Although he was recovering from injuries sustained in a fall last month and surgery to implant a pacemaker, Jelks said this month his health was not a factor in his decision to resign.
“I ran for and was elected to the East Feliciana Parish School Board a year ago,” Jelks said in his Feb. 29 resignation notice.
“At that time, I thought I had something to offer to the board and was excited about the prospect of contributing to the process of building an outstanding public education system in East Feliciana Parish,” he wrote.
“I no longer feel that way. I have come to feel (that) board actions are dominated by old and outdated ideas, special population blocs, misplaced priorities and alienation from present parish and state realities.
“Given that set of circumstances, I feel that I am wasting my time,” Jelks said, asking the board to accept his resignation and appoint Norwood lawyer Ron Thompson to take his place.
Neither Bradford nor Superintendent Carlos Sam disclosed the contents of Jelks’ letter when the board voted March 1 to accept his resignation, an omission board Vice President Mitch Harrell noted during a March 16 special meeting called to act on a replacement.
Harrell said board members should have been given Jelks’ note, and he called for better communication among board members.
Brooks faulted Harrell, however, saying Harrell could have asked Sam’s confidential assistant, Irma Bendily, for a copy.
“Sometimes she gives too much information, sometimes she doesn’t give enough. This time she didn’t give any,” Brooks said.
No one asked if Bendily was privy to the contents of Jelks’ resignation notice.
The deadline for submitting applications to be considered for the vacancy was first set for March 11, then extended to March 15 because the School Board office was closed March 11 as stormy weather hit much of Louisiana.
Five people submitted applications, but Bradford said one, former board member Rufus Nesbitt, did not live in the district and another, Harriett Sensely, would have to give up her seat on the Wilson Board of Aldermen to serve on the School Board.
The remaining applicants, Thompson, Wilson youth center director Debra Thomas and retired Tembec employee Alice Young, waited as some of the board members huddled in small groups outside the meeting room past the announced 5 p.m. starting time on March 16.
When the meeting convened, board member Paul Kent and Brooks pushed a motion to reopen the applications because, Kent said, some District 1 residents may not have known the application period was extended.
In addition to Brooks and Kent, Richard Terrell, Joyce Kent, Bradford, Harrell and Tim Corcoran voted for the additional delay, while Melvin Hollins and Beth Dawson voted against it.
Brooks also wanted Thompson, Thomas and Young to reapply, but Bradford overruled him.
Bradford called for Tuesday’s special meeting and set the application deadline for 4 p.m. Monday.
One other person applied to fill the vacancy, Veronica Thomas, but Bradford said Tuesday she is ineligible because she is a state employee.
On Tuesday’s first ballot, Thompson got four votes, from Joyce Kent, Paul Kent, Harrell and Corcoran, while Terrell and Brooks voted for Young, and Dawson supported Debra Thomas.
On the second ballot, Dawson switched to Thompson, but Joyce Kent threw her support to Young, leaving Thompson still one vote short of a majority.
Board members Rhonda Matthews, Melvin Hollins and Derald Spears were absent.
The board voted on March 16 to call a Nov. 8 election for District 1 voters to choose someone to finish the remainder of Jelks’ term.
Qualifying will be July 20-22, and a runoff election, if needed, will be Dec. 10.