DONALDSONVILLE — A three-month search for the next superintendent for the Ascension Parish school district was derailed Tuesday night when the board voted 7-4 to reject all three finalists, just minutes after they had been named following an executive session.
After the one-hour closed-door meeting, board member Troy Gautreau made a motion to bring in the three finalists — Rita Hernandez, of Texas; A. Katrise Perera, of Iowa; and Stacy Scott, of Massachusetts — for interviews. But board member Lorraine Wimberly quickly made a substitute motion.
“I make a substitute motion that we don’t accept any of the finalists and readvertise,” Wimberly said.
Her motion was seconded by board member John Murphy.
“We waste the public’s money to do the process and, all of a sudden, no one is qualified?” said board member Robyn Penn Delaney, who had seconded the original motion to interview the three finalists.
“I don’t think anyone on this board is racially motivated, but when you look at the three finalists, it brings up some questions,” Delaney said.
Hernandez, one of the finalists, is Hispanic, and the other two finalists, Perera and Scott, are black.
A fourth semifinalist going in to Tuesday’s meeting, Jerome Puyau, the Vermilion Parish school superintendent, did not make the final cut.
“They are outstanding,” board member Julie Blouin said of the three finalists, before the board’s vote was taken.
She recommended “giving them the opportunity to come interview with the community and letting the community decide.”
Voting for the substitute motion to reject the finalists and begin the search again were board members Wimberly, Murphy, Scott Duplechein, Kerry Diez, Taft Kleinpeter, Shawn Sevario and Louis Lambert.
Voting against the motion were Gautreau, Delaney, Blouin and board President Pat Russo.
Board member Sevario, who voted to reject the finalists, said after the meeting, “We just felt like we had some other opportunities, some other people to look at who didn’t apply. They thought a particular person was going to get (the job).
“When that didn’t happen as they expected, we wanted to open it back up. There are several candidates that have great qualities we missed out on,” said Sevario, who said they are all candidates from Louisiana.
Sevario said he couldn’t comment on the person whom others had thought would get the job.
One possibility is Ascension Parish Assistant Superintendent Steve Westbrook, who did apply for the position but was not named as a semifinalist.