As expected, the Jefferson Parish School Board voted this week not to renew Superintendent Isaac Joseph's contract, setting in motion the search for a new person to lead the state's largest public school system.
The board also voted to advertise the position and to hire an attorney to look into whether it can remove Joseph for cause or whether he will be allowed to serve out the remainder of his contract, which expires June 30.
Thursday night's votes were the culmination of several months of worsening relationships between Joseph and several board members. On Jan. 11, the board held a special meeting to introduce the items voted on Thursday.
Joseph has faced fire for months from board member Cedric Floyd, a onetime ally. Last fall, Floyd brought a set of allegations against Joseph, and the board hired attorney John Litchfield to look into possible "violations of board policy or state law" by Joseph. Litchfield's report is due this month. The alleged violations have never been disclosed publicly.
Before Christmas, two other board members, Mark Morgan and Larry Dale, met with Joseph in an effort to persuade him to resign. The two made an offer that has been referred to as a "buyout," though the terms have not been disclosed.
Joseph declined the offer, saying he felt "obligated" to the school system and intended to serve until his contract expires.
Thursday night, he sounded less committed to that position, telling a reporter that "everything remains on the table."
It took the Jefferson Parish School Board less than five minutes Thursday to officially begin the process of firing Superintendent Isaac Josep…
The search for a new superintendent is likely to be, like the last one, a tug of war between board factions. In 2015, when Joseph was hired, the board had a majority faction backed by the parish teachers union and a minority faction of business-backed members.
Those lines have since blurred. Each of the three motions Thursday night passed with at least seven of the nine board members voting for it.
But the votes didn't come without drama.
Floyd repeatedly urged the board not to try to choose a long-term successor and to leave that decision for the next board, which will take office in early 2019 after elections this fall.
Floyd also vowed to work to unseat some of his colleagues.
"If history serves, there's going to be two, three, four new board members," he said. "Some of these board members need to be uprooted."
Though he didn't name which members he wants to see ousted, he later talked derisively about Dale and had angry words for Morgan. He also accused the pair of "quarterbacking" the move to hire a new superintendent.
Member Marion Bonura repeatedly urged the board to proceed with caution, saying it risked a lawsuit if it didn't follow state law and the terms of Joseph's contract. But, he argued, the removal and even the replacement are a done deal.
"The fix is in," he said. "It's a done deal, and all the teachers know it. We're going to bring in a person who's got a school district of 5,000 people," he said.
Bonura was referring to Cade Brumley, the superintendent of the DeSoto Parish school system, who has been mentioned by several board members as someone they would like to speak with about the Jefferson Parish opening.
Jefferson Parish School Superintendent Isaac Joseph is unlikely to have his contract renewed when it expires at the end of June, according to …
Brumley maintains a relentlessly upbeat Twitter account and is the president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents.
"He's a very impressive young superintendent," said board member Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge. "I'd definitely want to talk to him" about an opening in Jefferson Parish, she said.
Reached late Thursday night, Brumley refused to discuss the Jefferson Parish job. "Any notion that I'm a certain applicant for a future position is false," he said. "Right now, my focus is continuing to lead the A-rated DeSoto Parish school system through a very important spring semester."
Denapolis-Bosarge insisted the job would be advertised to the public and Brumley would be just one candidate among what she hopes will be many.
Bonura remained skeptical.
"Our school district is bigger than the town he's coming from," he said. "No matter what you do, Mr. Floyd, the fix is in."
DeSoto Parish, in northwest Louisiana, has a population of about 27,000. The parish seat, Mansfield, has about 5,000 people. Jefferson Parish has a population of about 435,000. Its school system serves nearly 50,000 students.
Editor's note: This story has been changed to remove a statement that Brumley graduated from a training program run by Dr. James Meza, a former Jefferson Parish schools superintendent. In fact, Brumley has taught courses at a leaders' program for which Meza serves as executive director. It has also been clarified to remove an implication that Cedric Floyd persuaded the board to hire attorney John Litchfield. The board voted unanimously to refer the charges to Litchfield for review.