St. Landry board questions school administrator’s duties

St. Landry Parish School Board members questioned what duties Melville’s mayor will be performing Thursday for the school system now that he will no longer be serving as interim principal at Port Barre Elementary.

The board voted to name Joseph G. Sonnier as principal of Port Barre, leaving Melville Mayor Willie C. “Butch” Hayne’s status unclear.

Several board members inquired why Haynes was still being paid a principal’s salary when he no longer is serving as a principal at any of the district’s schools.

Haynes at one time served as Melville Elementary principal, but that school was closed several years ago as part of a desegregation plan signed by U.S. District Judge Tucker Melancon.

Students who attended Melville Elementary were sent to Palmetto High and North Central High School and since then Haynes has been employed in several capacities within the St. Landry school system.

Haynes’ latest administrative duty was serving as interim principal at Port Barre Elementary after Mazie Taylor, the school’s appointed principal, was granted sick leave by the board several years ago, Superintendent Edward Brown said following the meeting.

Taylor has since retired, Brown said, which requires the district to select a permanent principal at Port Barre Elementary.

Brown said Haynes was originally among the candidates who applied for the position and underwent the interview process with several other candidates.

“Then for some unknown reason, (Haynes) withdrew his name,” Brown said.

During the meeting, the board approved Brown’s recommendation that Sonnier be appointed to the Port Barre Elementary position.

Other candidates for the position who were interviewed by the selection committee were Ollie Mae Jackson and Tiffany N. Perry, according to a School Board personnel committee report presented at the meeting.

Haynes did not attend Thursday’s meeting and could not immediately be reached for comment by telephone Thursday night.

The board did not discuss Haynes’ salary during the meeting, but salaries of principals in the school district range from about $63,000-$70,000 annually.

Brown said outside the meeting that Haynes’ future duties within the district will be discussed at an administrative staff meeting Monday and will be presented to the board at a later date.

Board member Anthony Standberry said he was not opposed to Sonnier’s appointment, but he did not approve of Haynes continuing to receive the pay of a principal without performing the duties.

“With that salary, we could hire two teachers at Grolee Elementary, three custodians or three cafeteria workers,” Standberry said.

Board member Milton Ambres said if Haynes was good enough to serve as Port Barre Elementary principal in Taylor’s absence, then Haynes should have been appointed as principal on Thursday.

Board attorney Gerard Caswell said the board’s policy is clear about the employment status of administrators who are removed under circumstances which they did not create.

“Since this was not a voluntary displacement of a principal, the board cannot reduce the salary. The fact that Mr. Haynes withdrew from the (Port Barre Elementary) position means that he was not interested in it and the decision according to state law is placed in the hands of the superintendent.

“The superintendent has made his appointment based on the qualifications of those who applied. Those are the facts and you do not have the luxury of changing the facts,” Caswell said.