GONZALES — With a new “help wanted” ad for the Ascension Parish public schools superintendent published in local and area newspapers late last week, the School Board is looking at possibly hiring its next superintendent Aug. 9, the second day of the new school year.
But the board has reserved the right to stop the process of winnowing candidates at any time and hire its next superintendent on the spot, if the right one comes along.
The board just needs to wait for 30 days after the classified ad first ran June 16 to hire someone, its attorney, Jeff Diez, said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“If you get a Robert Clouatre to apply — and I encourage you to do that — you can hire them,” Diez said to laughter, referring to the man, now retired, who headed the school district three superintendents ago.
After an earlier, three-month search for the next schools superintendent dead-ended on June 7, when the board voted 7-4 to reject the three out-of-state finalists and to reopen applications, the board is following a speedier process.
Diez presented the board Tuesday with a timeline that gives a deadline of July 18 for candidates to apply; the selection of three finalists by July 27; interviews on Aug. 3 and the selection of the superintendent on Aug. 9, always with the caveat that the hiring of the new superintendent — who will replace Patrice Pujol, now retired — could come before that, as early as July 24, Diez said, referring to the 30 days required after the ad first runs.
Assistant Superintendent A. Denise Graves has been the acting superintendent since March.
Also on Tuesday, the School Board approved its general fund budget for fiscal year 2016-17, which begins July.
Totaling $220 million in revenues, the budget is $5.6 million less than the current year’s budget, due to anticipated lower sales tax revenues as a major industrial expansion concludes and per-student funding from the state declines, said the school district’s director of business services, Diane Allison.
To meet the reduced funding, the district cut over $8.8 million, Allison said, with some of the top money-saving steps being:
Not expanding the One-to-One student computing device program, saving $2.6 million
Increasing the pupil-to-teacher ratio by 1 student, saving $1.9 million
Not upgrading the district’s information technology infrastructure, saving $1.1 million
A reduced rate, set by the state Legislature, for school districts’ contribution rate to teachers’ retirement and school employees retirement, saving $1.1 million.
The “good news,” said Allison, is that with the 2016-17 budget, the school district will still be upgrading all middle school student computing devices to Chromebooks, moving the ninth-graders at St. Amant High to a new Freshman Academy building and performing major maintenance projects on eight campuses.