Lafayette school board sets special meeting to fill vacant seat _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Cockerham is shown at a School Board meeting in this August 2014 Advocate file photo.

The Lafayette Parish School Board plans to meet on Monday to fill the District 7 seat vacated by Mark Cockerham earlier this month due to his move out of district.

The meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

Cockerham stepped down from the seat earlier this month after he was faced with a lawsuit from the District Attorney’s Office if he didn’t resign.

Cockerham is a District 7 candidate in the upcoming Nov. 4 election. While his current address qualifies him to run in District 7 in the upcoming race based on redistricting maps that take effect in January, the address currently lies within District 9.

As required by law, Cockerham filed notice of his resignation, effective Oct. 16, with the Secretary of State’s Office, which in turn sent notice to the School Board of the vacancy.

Based on the Secretary of State Office’s notice, the board must make a new appointment by Nov. 6.

No recommendations for the appointment were included with the agenda for the special meeting, though board President Hunter Beasley said earlier this week that those interested can contact him.

The temporary board member must reside in District 7 and will serve in the position through Dec. 31.

As of Wednesday, Beasley said, two people have expressed an interest in the position — retired Lafayette Parish teacher Melinda Mangham and attorney William Thornton. He said the door is open to others in District 7 who may be interested in the temporary post.

Those interested must be at least 18, lived in Louisiana for the past two years and lived in District 7 for at least a year.

A former Lafayette Parish schools administrator Nancy Cech filed a complaint with the District Attorney’s Office dated Aug. 29 questioning Cockerham’s residency status for his current term.

Cech also filed a lawsuit in district court challenging Cockerham’s residency status and Cockerham’s challenger in the upcoming Nov. 4 election, Dawn Morris, later joined the lawsuit.

Though Cech and Morris have offered to drop the lawsuit, Cockerham has refused and asked the court to consider sanctions against the plaintiffs for filing the lawsuit when the District Attorney’s Office was the appropriate venue for the complaint.

Through Dec. 31, the board has only four regular meetings scheduled, though whomever is appointed could play a role in determining Superintendent Pat Cooper’s future in the district.

The board has scheduled a hearing on Nov. 5 for Cooper to defend himself against five charges that could lead to his disciplinary action or termination.

Cooper had asked a judge to intervene in the hearing and disqualify three board members — Beasley, Mark Babineaux and Tehmi Chassion — from voting in the hearing because he claims they’re biased against him.

The judge rejected that request on Wednesday.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.