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Lafayette Parish School Board Superintendent Donald Aguillard is pictured Thursday, January 10, 2019, while presenting a Teacher of the Year award at Northside High School in Lafayette, La.

Lafayette Parish School Superintendent Donald Aguillard is retiring after four years on the job, effective when his contract expires in May.

The move surprised School Board members, who now must decide what to do with the vacancy in a year when all nine board members are up for election.

All five board members who spoke with The Advocate on Friday — Britt Latiolais, Tommy Angelle, Justin Centanni, Elroy Broussard and Dawn Morris — praised Aguillard and wished him well.

Latiolais and Angelle said they would prefer Aguillard to accept an extension through the end of next school year, after the new board members take their seats. Latiolais said the School Board “could have done a better effort” in trying to convince Aguillard to stay.

Latiolais said the vacancy is particularly challenging since superintendents cannot serve for longer than two years after the expiration of the terms of office of the school board members who hire them, Latiolais noted. That means the next superintendent will need to be comfortable with a short-term contract.

 “I think we are in a pretty precarious situation here. Do we appoint an interim? Do we hire somebody for a year?” Latiolais said. “I don’t really support saddling the next board with a (permanent) superintendent.”

Centanni took a different view, suggesting that board’s status won’t impact the search process. In any case, he said, “it’s a little premature to be digging way deep into it, about how a search will go.”

 “This is part of the job. This is in fact probably our main job, to make sure we are getting the best educational leader for the children of this parish,” Centanni said.

Broussard said Aguillard’s timing is logical.

“It’s easier for him to retire now and feeling a sense of satisfaction instead of just trying to get to know the new board coming in, and starting all over again,” Broussard said.

Lafayette’s district performance score — the measure the state uses to asses school districts — rose in Aguillard’s first year and remained steady over the next three years, according to state data. He served as superintendent in St. Mary Parish prior to Lafayette, and he spent a combined 15 years as a school chief executive in both parishes, he wrote in his resignation letter.

“I will cherish the many personal relationships formed in both St. Mary and Lafayette parishes,” Aguillard wrote.

See Aguillard's letter here:

Follow Ben Myers on Twitter, @blevimyers.