I have been in education for 43 years, championing for children of all socioeconomic backgrounds and races. During my tenure in Lafayette, I have paid particular attention to poor minority students and championed for equity in their education. So to be characterized as a racist is particularly concerning to me and unfair as it does not reflect my present or lifelong work as an educator. During my entire career, I have made a deliberate effort to treat all students equally and fairly.

I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts. There is no place for this in educating children.

There are those working behind the scenes and others who are loudly trying to derail good things that are happening for the children in our school system right now, all for the fear of loss of power and influence, all on the backs of defenseless children and their families who have for so long had no voice.

My use of the term “black Mafia” a few weeks back has been taken out of context and has been twisted to make me seem insensitive. Mafias of varying ethnicities and races exist, but the commonality is that they all prey on the defenseless and the disenfranchised of their neighborhoods. After reading the article “Political Prostitutes” in the October edition of the Independent Monthly — about how prior local elections had been influenced based on those willing to pay the price for certain members of the community to endorse them — I confess that in that moment, my frustration and passion for equity got the better of me.

As superintendent in Lafayette, I am responsible for ensuring that all students are given equal opportunities and resources to learn. I’ve done everything I possibly could to help level the playing field in our district to make sure that poor and minority kids have the same access to a quality education that other students do. These efforts have frequently been met with opposition from an entrenched “old guard” of the system who are satisfied with the status quo.

They aren’t defined by being black or white but by opposing efforts to help the students who need it most. My frustration is with community “leaders” who place personal interests and politics ahead of the welfare of our most vulnerable children.

My comments have nothing to do with race. They have to do with what is right for our children.

Pat Cooper

superintendent, Lafayette Parish public schools