The deadlock over who will serve as president of the Iberville Parish School Board ended this week during a special-called meeting where at-large board member Darlene Ourso won majority support to hold the office.
And Ourso has board member Yolanda Laws to thank, because it was Laws’ vote in Ourso’s favor that finally broke the 4-4 tie between frontrunners Ourso and Melvin Lodge.
According to minutes from the Feb. 5 meeting, board members Chris Daigle, Pam George, Theresa Roy, Laws and Ourso voted in favor of Ourso.
Board members Michael Hebert, Polly Higdon, Glyna Kelley and Lodge maintained their votes for Lodge — who served as board president for the past 10 years.
“I’m kind of excited and nervous at the same time,” Ourso said Friday. “I’d like to see the board come together.”
Lodge didn’t have much to say Friday about the vote, only that he accepts the board’s decision and thinks everyone will work well together moving forward.
But after its first meeting as a revamped body of nine members instead of 15, there were doubts the smaller board would mean less friction.
The board spent 30 minutes on a back-and-forth debate concerning the election of officers last month, resulting in three attempts to select a president, each resulting in a 4-4-1 vote.
At the time, Laws expressed interest in serving as board president herself and refused to back Lodge or Ourso.
Laws in the past had criticized Ourso, claiming her fellow board member opted to air the school district’s “dirty laundry” at public meetings instead of hashing issues out more discreetly.
Laws also has said previously that she felt choosing Lodge wouldn’t give the board the fresh perspective it needed because there hadn’t been much consensus among the board during his 10-year tenure as board president.
Laws did not return calls Friday seeking comment about her decision to back Ourso for board president.
One of the primary duties of the board president is to preside over all School Board meetings and call any special meetings when necessary.
“My style and Mr. Lodge’s style is totally different; he’s more laid back,” Ourso said.
In response to Laws’ claim she airs too much “dirty laundry” Ourso said, “I’ve had issues getting stuff on the agenda, and it fell on deaf ears. I think any board member should be allowed to put something on the agenda. If we can’t address it first with the superintendent ... (board members) should be allowed to put it on the agenda.”
According to meeting minutes, Laws was nominated to serve as vice president alongside Ourso. But she lost that bid to Glyna Kelley, who retained a position she also has held for the past 10 years, with a 5-4 vote.
Daigle, Hebert, Higdon, Kelley and Lodge voted in favor of Kelley, the meeting minutes state.
Both Ourso and Kelley will serve in the positions for a year, according to a policy the School Board unanimously adopted at the special-called meeting.
Ourso recommended the board adopt a policy outlining the tenure and selection process of board officers after all of the confusion during their first attempt last month.
According to the policy, board officers will be elected annually during the board’s first meeting in January after an election and at its regular meeting in December in all other years.
The policy says any officer can be removed from the position during their tenure by a majority vote of the total School Board.
“I’d like to see the board come together,” Ourso said. “I think we’re really trying to get it together.”
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