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Preston Castille, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who lives in Baton Rouge, said he is interested in serving as president of BESE.

Louisiana's top school board may pick a president this month against the backdrop of an investigation that has divided current president Sandy Holloway and state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley.

Preston Castille, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who is seen as a Brumley ally, said he is interested in the job.

"If the board wants me to be president I am happy to serve," said Castille, who is finishing his second year on the board.

Castille's interest has sparked speculation that a faction of BESE is dissatisfied with Holloway's leadership and wants to go in a different direction.

Holloway, who has been president for the past two years, was out of town Friday and unavailable for comment.

Allies said she has not told them whether she plans to seek another year as president.

The election is set for Dec. 15 but it could be pushed back to January, which board veterans say is the typical month for choosing officers.

Holloway and Brumley have clashed repeatedly in recent months, including BESE's request, signed by Holloway, asking Legislative Auditor Michael Waguespack to investigate emergency contracts issued by the state Department of Education.

She said the board has reason to believe some of the agreements may have been issued or paid without the approval of the board or its president.

Brumley demanded that Holloway provide proof of any wrongdoing by 5 p.m. on the day after the letter was sent.

Holloway declined to do so. 

Both sides say they have a working relationship.

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However, the issue has clearly put a strain on things especially after previous, public disputes between the two on how public schools should be rated, the timetable for setting up a K-2 accountability system and quarantine rules for students.

How long Waguespack's investigation will last is unclear, and the issue is on BESE's Dec. 14-15 meeting agenda.

One argument for delaying the vote on officers until January is that it would make no sense to do so in the middle of the auditor's probe.

BESE's letter sparked some behind-the-scenes squabbling, and Castille was described as favoring a more narrow approach to the request that would have been more to Brumley's liking.

The letter to Waguespack cited a state law on misappropriation of state funds, which incensed Brumley and his allies.

BESE, which has 11 members, sets policies for about 700,000 public school students statewide.

The superintendent is in charge of implementing those policies.

Brumley has held the post for 17 months, and Holloway cast the eighth and deciding vote when he was picked as superintendent on May 20, 2021 after two rounds of voting.

Neither Holloway nor Castille backed Brumley in the first round.

Castille initially supported then assistant state superintendent of education Jessica Baghian for superintendent before backing Brumley in round two.

Holloway voted for former St. James Parish Superintendent Lonnie Luce, then Brumley on the second vote.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.

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