Cade Brumley may have earned a stellar reputation as the superintendent of schools in DeSoto Parish, but he hasn't won over everyone in Jefferson Parish just yet.
About a dozen teachers, pastors and community members showed up Monday evening to ask that the Jefferson Parish School Board not go through with hiring Brumley to lead the district that night. They objected to how quickly the board had decided on a new leader, asking for a national search that might draw more applicants.
Brumley was one of just two hopefuls who applied for the top education job in one of the state's most populous parishes, and the other one dropped out.
“Dr. Brumley might be the best candidate,” said Ann Marie Coviello, a first-year teacher in Jefferson with 26 years of experience in Orleans Parish. “I’m not going to say I wasn’t impressed by many of the things that he said, but it undermines him to bring him in this way.
"Do what you have been elected to do — represent the teachers and the public in a democratic way. No back-door deals. That’s not the way to do things.”
Coviello also objected to the fact that no minority or female candidates even got a vetting.
“Is it really possible that in the year 2018 we are letting go of a person of color in a minority-majority school system and we’re not going to have a diverse candidate selection?” she continued. “In a profession that is female-dominated, we don’t have one woman who can stand up to be considered as superintendent of this system?”
After ultimately winning the board's approval, Brumley said he would work to win over the trust of anyone upset about how he was hired.
“I’m not responsible for the process. I followed the guidelines that I had to follow as a candidate,” he said shortly after the unanimous vote.
“But I want them to know that I’m not going to be the guy in the ivory tower,” he continued. “I want to be someone who is present and visible in the schools, learning from them, and hopefully they can learn from me.”
The School Board is expected to convene a committee Wednesday to begin drawing up a contract, and Chairman Mark Morgan said he wants Brumley to get to work in Jefferson as soon as possible.
Brumley said Tuesday morning that he wants to give the board and system in DeSoto Parish at least two weeks' notice of his departure, which has been widely rumored for many weeks.
Two of Brumley’s three predecessors in Jefferson made an annual salary of $235,000, and he is expected to be offered more than that. He has made $190,000 in DeSoto.
Brumley said he will get to work on his 100-day plan and have it ready for the board on his first day at work.
“Student safety is my top responsibility, and I wake up thinking of that first thing every morning now, and that won’t change,” he said. “Student learning and student opportunity is my top priority. I want parents and students and teachers to know that I don’t plan to completely break down the system. I intend to add value to it.”
While the board’s vote was unanimous, three of the nine members — Marion “Coach” Bonura, Cedric Floyd and Ricky Johnson — also voiced concerns about the hiring process.
Brumley had his supporters as well, however, many of whom were from the business community and groups such as the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the organization Teach for America.
Larry Katz of the Jefferson Business Council read a letter from Parish Councilman Dominick Impastato, who as a lawyer represented a man who worked for the DeSoto school system but had become disabled.
Impastato said Brumley went above and beyond to help the man get back to work in the system and provide for his family of six, and again when the man was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Tony Ligi of the Jefferson Business Council urged the School Board to move ahead with the vote.
“Let’s provide our system with the immediate certainty it needs, that teachers need and children need, and let’s move forward,” he said.
Morgan said he understood those who wanted a delay, but he said the fact that people objected only to the process, rather than the candidate, “that to me says he is the right man for the job.”
Morgan and board member Melinda Bourgeois said the members have had time to do their due diligence, and Morgan said he doesn’t want to miss a chance to hire someone who has other options.
“Sometimes when you delay, you lose an opportunity, and that’s the way that I evaluate it,” he said.
Morgan took issue with the notion that the School Board does not consider diversity in its decisions, noting that the system’s previous three superintendents included a black man and a white woman.
Morgan has said previously that he thinks public comments from Bonura about “the fix” being in for Brumley to get the job did more to limit the number of applicants than anything else.