Jefferson Parish School Superintendent Isaac Joseph is unlikely to have his contract renewed when it expires at the end of June, according to School Board members who spoke to The Advocate.
That means the biggest public school system in the state may be heading for another major transition.
School Board elections in 2014 shifted the board's ideological orientation and ultimately opened the way for Joseph to take the helm the following year.
Now, Joseph may have just a few months left in the job, with fresh board elections coming up next fall.
The board had already signaled that Joseph might be on thin ice. At a meeting last week, members went behind closed doors to conduct his annual evaluation. When they emerged later, they said they had nothing to report, apparently leaving even Joseph in the dark about their opinion of his recent performance.
Two days before that, incoming board President Mark Morgan and incoming Vice President Larry Dale met with Joseph to discuss his upcoming contract renewal, according to Morgan, who declined to describe what was said. Joseph also declined to discuss that meeting.
Others on the board are openly convinced that Joseph needs to go.
"The school system definitely needs to go in a different direction," said member Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge. She said Joseph should have continued with measures begun under his predecessor, James Meza, who was favored by the parish's business community and the formerly dominant faction on the board.
"Instead of continuing with the reforms, I felt like they were scrapped and it was a regression," she said.
Denapolis-Bosarge pointed to the system's state-issued school performance score, which dropped from 87.3 in 2015 to 78.9 this year. In terms of letter grades, that's a decline from a B ranking to a C.
"We are just too big of a school system to wallow in mediocrity," Denapolis-Bosarge said.
As word of Joseph's possible ouster began to spread last week, some board members received calls urging support for Joseph, the members said.
Board President Melinda Doucet, who is white, also got an anonymous fax last week accusing her of racism.
Doucet said she was "shocked and dismayed" by the allegation and wondered if it was an attempt to intimidate her into supporting Joseph, who is the district's first permanent black superintendent.
Morgan agreed that the letter seemed like intimidation. "The timing of it" was suspect, he said, coming as it did the day after the evaluation session.
Doucet had a regular meeting with Joseph on Tuesday and told him about the letter. During that meeting, he denied any knowledge of it and said he had never seen her do or say anything racist.
Board attorney Mike Fanning, who also attended the meeting, asked Joseph to put those comments in writing. When he had not done that by Wednesday afternoon, Doucet asked Fanning to produce an affidavit stating that Joseph had made those comments.
Joseph later issued a statement that said in part, "I have never witnessed in either a public or private meeting any type of disparaging actions or comments about any ethnic group of students or employees from Ms. Doucet."
Doucet, one of those who favors looking for a new superintendent, said the recent developments, including the letter, may have solidified the board's consensus for seeking a new superintendent.
The last few months have been tumultuous for Joseph. In addition to the drama over whether he will get a contract extension, he is the subject of an investigation prompted by board member Cedric Floyd, who formerly was a Joseph supporter.
The substance of Floyd's allegations has never been made public, though Floyd was not able to get Joseph suspended while the investigation proceeds. The board is expected to get a report on that investigation this month.
Joseph has had an uphill battle since he was appointed in 2015. He had the support of Floyd at the time, but three members of the board's once-dominant business-backed faction — Denapolis-Bosarge, Dale and Melinda Bourgeois — preferred Michelle Blouin-Williams, who was interim superintendent after Meza left.
Blouin-Williams now is chief executive officer of the New Beginnings Schools Foundation in New Orleans.