Jefferson Parish Public Schools Superintendent Isaac Joseph once called School Board member Cedric Floyd a “cohort and a friend,” but the two men’s relationship seems to have soured.
In a document he emailed to his board colleagues Tuesday, Floyd accused the superintendent of violating Louisiana’s nepotism laws by failing to recuse himself from administrative actions involving a Jefferson high school principal’s job in which Joseph’s wife has expressed interest.
Floyd, who has repeatedly clashed with parish school officials through the years, said his sole motivation for coming forward with his concerns was to defend the district’s integrity.
School Board members Larry Dale and Mark Morgan said they did not believe the allegations Floyd made in a document dated June 21 merited an outside investigation of Joseph, who could not be reached for comment.
Board member Marion “Coach” Bonura said the allegations didn’t overly concern him because he and his colleagues had approved a process by which a panel of retired educators would evaluate whether relatives of Joseph deserve promotions in the school system. He said he was confident that process would protect the system.
Either way, it seems clear that Floyd is at serious odds with the man he supported for the superintendent’s job a little more than a year ago, when Floyd was the School Board’s president and at the forefront of a search for a successor to former Superintendent James Meza.
Isaac Joseph, executive director of grants and federal programs for the Jefferson Parish Pub…
In his document, Floyd says the job of principal at L.W. Higgins High School in Marrero became available a little more than two months after Joseph became superintendent on May 1, 2015.
Floyd asserts, among other things, that state law prohibited Joseph from participating in any transaction that might benefit one of his family members until the board secured approval for a plan to disqualify him from a role in any personnel decisions involving relatives who were employed by the district before he became superintendent.
Floyd alleges that two events skirted that rule before the disqualification plan received final approval from state ethics officials in January.
First, he said, the district’s chief legal officer — presumably at Joseph’s request — asked state ethics officials whether the superintendent’s wife — Faith Joseph, a principal at one of the system’s middle schools — could legally be transferred to Higgins.
The other allegation made by Floyd is that Joseph filled the vacancy at Higgins by appointing someone to serve as “acting” principal for only one school year, ensuring Faith Joseph could apply for the permanent post later.
Floyd said the normal action would have been for Joseph to give the new principal a two-year contract, as happened with the replacement of a Gretna elementary school principal who resigned in August 2015.
Faith Joseph applied for the principal’s job at Higgins earlier this summer, Floyd said. School Board members are tentatively scheduled to discuss at a Thursday meeting which retired educators will serve on an evaluation panel for the Higgins job following Faith Joseph’s application.
After receiving Floyd’s document, board member Melinda Bourgeois asked School Board attorney Mike Fanning in an email what he thought of the matter.
Fanning replied that he believed it was legal and standard for superintendents to appoint “acting” administrators, such as Joseph did at Higgins.
Floyd, however, said he did not believe any prior superintendents made such appointments while facing the possible “conflict of interest” Joseph did.
Fanning said it ultimately is up to the board to determine whether a probe of Floyd’s allegations is necessary. He said such an investigation would have to be done by an outsider because he reports to the superintendent as well as the board.
Dale said he was far from convinced that any investigation is necessary.
Relations between Floyd and Joseph used to be much warmer. When he was the principal of a parish school in the 1990s, Joseph described Floyd — then serving his first of two stints on the School Board — as “a cohort and a friend of mine.”
But since landing the superintendent’s job last year with support from Floyd, Joseph has shown that he is willing to disagree with him on major issues.
They have differed on the specifics of a plan to build hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of new academic buildings in the parish; a draft of that plan was defeated by Floyd and other board members in April despite Joseph’s endorsement.
Months earlier, Floyd backed away from a proposal to eliminate the position of legal services chief from the system’s budget after Joseph said that move should have been discussed with him but wasn’t.
Floyd denied Wednesday that his actions are driven by behind-the-scenes problems with Joseph. “This is how I would’ve felt no matter who the superintendent was,” he said.