LAFAYETTE — A sharply divided School Board on Thursday approved Superintendent Pat Cooper’s reorganization of the central office staff, another in a series of changes that Cooper says are meant to improve the school system’s state accountability rating.
The 5-4 vote to approve the staff reorganization mirrors the divided vote at the board’s April 18 meeting in which the same five board members approved Cooper’s school system turnaround plan. The plan creates several new initiatives to move the district from its state accountability rating of “C” to an “A” over the next six years.
Following Wednesday’s divided vote, Cooper asked the board for recommendations on how to reach unanimity.
“I think it’s my job as superintendent to find out how I can get your support, and I intend to try to do that,” Cooper said.
The reorganization plan eliminated about 119 positions and created 71 others.
However, some of the positions eliminated from the central office will move to school-based jobs, Cooper told the board.
“We think it will end up in 42 positions we will have eliminated from the central office,” he said.
The reorganization plan saves about $2.6 million that “we can turn around and put into the schools and into the classrooms,” Cooper said.
Board members Hunter Beasley, Kermit Bouillion, Tehmi Chassion, Shelton Cobb, and Mark Cockerham voted in support of the reorganization. Board members Tommy Angelle, Greg Awbrey, Mark Allen Babineaux and Rae Trahan voted against the plan.
After the vote, Trahan told Cooper that she thought his plan “looks great,” but said she’s holding out on approval until the future plans and funding for Thibodaux Career and Technical High School are clarified. Trahan supports maintaining the high school’s specialized career and technical curriculum.
The turnaround plan proposes further study of moving the program to the W.D. and Mary Baker Smith Career Center and Thibodaux becoming a science, technology, engineering and math academy, however, no change will be made in the upcoming school year.
“Until I see where those funds are and where they are redirected, I will not feel comfortable about saying yes to this plan,” Trahan said.
Awbrey said many of the positions carry the same or similar responsibilities, and only different titles.
“I’m concerned that we’re using this reorganization to eliminate some people rather than to streamline or reorganize,” Awbrey said.
Cooper defended the plan, saying it’s designed to “bring this school district up.”
Cooper said he’s trying to put the right people in the right positions and is not playing favorites.
Awbrey said he’d prefer to see all the positions open for interviews.
Cooper said, “You’ve got to give me the leeway to hire the right people. … I respect your opinion, but you hired me to turn this school district around and that’s what I would like to do with this reorganization chart.”
Cooper said some changed positions will be open, but he will appoint some people.
Cooper said that, so far, he’s handpicked only one appointment: the new position of assistant superintendent.
The position replaces the current deputy superintendent of instructional services positions held by Katie Landry, who retires in June. Cooper said he plans to appoint Sandra Billeaudeau, a certified school turnaround specialist.
Billeaudeau has directed the turnaround effort as assistant superintendent. She is currently the administrator of N.P. Moss Annex, a site of multiple student support services.
The first round of open central office positions will be posted on the school system’s website: http://www.lpssonline.com on Thursday.
Editor’s note: This story was modified on May 3, 2012, to reflect that changes proposed for Thibodaux Career and Technical High are still to be studied and will not go into effect in the next school year.