OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish School Board ended an eight-month search Thursday, selecting Edward Brown as the district’s new superintendent following a 7-4 vote.
Brown, the district’s longtime supervisor of child welfare and attendance, was chosen over Joseph Cassimere, who has served as interim superintendent for more than 14 months.
Cassimere and Brown emerged as the two leading contenders for the superintendent earlier this year, but in a series of votes over the past several months, neither man, until Thursday, was able to obtain the seven of 13 votes necessary to secure the position.
The board originally intended to choose a superintendent in September, but voting was postponed after two board members — Quincy Richard and John Miller — were indicted by a federal grand jury in October for allegedly soliciting bribes from Cassimere in exchange for their votes.
Both men have pleaded not guilty, and a trial in the case is scheduled for Aug. 19.
Brown and Cassimere were among five original candidates applying for the superintendent’s job that became open in 2011 when Superintendent Michael Nassif suddenly resigned.
Following Nassif’s resignation, Donnie Perron, now interim board member for District 6, also served as interim superintendent. Cassimere replaced Perron. Nassif replaced the late Lanny Moreau.
Prior to the voting on Thursday, Debbie Faul, who serves as the parish alternative school facilitator, spoke in favor of selecting Cassimere.
Faul said Cassimere has presided over the financial improvement of the school system since he became interim superintendent.
Faul referred the board to a story in the Wednesday edition of the Opelousas Daily World, which indicates the district is anticipating a general fund surplus of nearly $4 million at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year June 30.
During Thursday’s action on the superintendent, the board voted twice on separate motions.
The board voted 4-6 against selecting Cassimere on the first ballot.
Voting for Cassimere were Anthony Standberry, Charles Ross, Randy Wagley and Josie Frank. Voting against Cassimere were Candace Gerace, Perron, Huey Wyble, Kyle Boss, Roger Young and Board President Harry Fruge.
Richard abstained on the motion to select Cassimere.
In April, St. Landry Parish District Attorney Earl Taylor filed a petition in 27th Judicial District Court to remove Richard from political office because of Richard’s 2004 guilty plea for filing false records in his alleged buying of grades and a degree from Southern University. That case also is pending.
On the motion to select Brown, those voting “no” were Standberry, Ross, Wagley and Frank.
Voting for Brown were Gerace, Perron, Wyble, Boss, Richard, Young and Fruge.
Miller abstained on the votes for both Cassimere and Brown. Raymond Cassimere, brother of Joseph Cassimere, abstained on both votes.
Brown briefly addressed the board following his selection.
“It’s a deep pleasure to stand before you and pay this system back as its leader,” Brown said. “That has been my goal, serving for the good of the children in this system. That’s what I am all about.
“I have a number of ideas and thoughts about how to push this system forward and restore pride and confidence. I want to have a positive end in obtaining success for this parish,” said Brown.
Brown told the board that he and Cassimere had a discussion earlier on Thursday concerning the impending vote of the board later during the day.
“Mr. Cassimere has done a good job and I plan to work very closely with him. During that discussion he said the same thing to me,” Brown said.