The final meeting of the 15-member Iberville Parish School Board was filled with earnest thanks from Superintendent Ed Cancienne, who on Monday told the eight outgoing board members that they should be proud of their service.

On Jan. 1, the School Board will transform into a 9-member body — made up of eight single-member districts and one at-large seat — following Saturday’s runoff races, which were based on a new redistricting plan the School Board was forced to adopt a year ago.

The newly created board will convene Jan. 12.

“I know it was difficult at times, (but) you personally sacrificed a lot for the children in this parish,” Cancienne said Monday. “We’re on the threshold of really moving the parish in a positive direction.”

Board President Melvin Lodge, who retained his seat in District B in an unopposed race, added, “This school district is very close to becoming a B district, and we’re getting more students back into the system. You should pat yourselves on the back.”

At the end of the month, the district will lose board members Donald Patterson, Michael Barbee, Tom Delahaye and Nancy Broussard, who did not seek re-election. Board members Dorothy Sansoni, Freddie “Sam” Molden III, John Morris III and Brian Willis also are saying goodbye after being defeated for re-election.

Proponents of the board’s reduction have said a smaller School Board should help reduce much of the tension among the often cantankerous board members.

After Monday’s meeting, Cancienne said it’s not really the board’s size that matters.

“What matters is keeping a child-centered agenda,” he said. “As long as we have that, it will be a productive and effective School Board.”

Darlene Ourso, who defeated Willis in Saturday’s runoff for the newly created at-large seat, asked the outgoing board members to stay involved with the school system and continue working with the board toward the success of Iberville Parish schools.

“There’s a lot of experience leaving,” she said at Monday’s meeting. “We’re not always right, but we’re willing to listen. Hold us accountable. That’s what this is about.”

Sansoni replied by informing board members she plans to organize a parents group to monitor the school system.

“I may not be sitting on this side of the table, but I will be standing on that side of the podium,” Sansoni told Ourso. “We need to know what’s happening on this board. I know what’s going on, and I know what’s being hidden from us. We want to be a good, strong parents group.”

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