Ed Cancienne

Iberville Parish Schools Superintendent Ed Cancienne now has to add another job duty to his workload: presiding over the School Board’s monthly meetings.

That’s because the newly revamped nine-member School Board on Monday failed to elect board officers — namely a board president — after three attempts resulting in the same sharply divided votes among board members.

The School Board ended up having to table the election of a president and vice president after a more than 30-minute bickering session over their conflicting interpretations of Robert’s Rules of Order and its apparent contradiction to the board’s policy on selecting a president.

The board president’s main duty is to preside over monthly meetings.

The election of new board officers was the top item of business for the School Board’s first meeting of the year — and the first one following last year’s elections, which drastically shrunk the once 15-member body to nine people representing eight single-member districts and one at-large representative.

Board members Chris Daigle, Theresa White Roy, Pam George and Darlene Ourso all cast votes in favor of Ourso taking the reins from Melvin Lodge, who also received four votes to continue as the board’s leader, from himself, Michael Hebert, Polly Higdon and Glyna Kelley.

Yolanda Laws nominated and voted for herself, causing the deadlock Monday night.

The board’s attorney informed the members that because they could not agree on a president, and a majority of board members did not want to attempt to elect a vice president because of the logjam, Cancienne will have to preside over all future meetings until a president is chosen.

The board is expected to revisit the matter at its next meeting, Feb. 9.

Monday’s ordeal elicited a chorus of moans from the throng of residents and school officials who packed the School Board’s meeting chambers.

Former board member Dorothy Sansoni, who was defeated in the November primary for the at-large seat, asked from the audience that the three nominees for board president sell the public on what they planned to do if elected to lead the board.

“That may help some of you change your mind on how you’re going to vote,” she said.

Echoing parts of her campaign platform, Ourso told the audience that she pledged to unite the board and put the needs of the children first if elected.

“We have to get this board together,” she said. “This vote is an indication tonight of how much our board is split.”

Laws touted her leadership skills and desire to invite more public participation in board meetings.

“The key is to communicate the process y’all have to go through to be a part of the meetings,” she said.

And Lodge took the opportunity to imply that certain board members only want to serve as president to carry out their own agendas.

“You cannot come with a preset agenda where you want to control everything,” he said. “Why be so disagreeable and so vindictive with it? If we want the public to support us, we have to come together as one.”

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.