St. Landry sets schools chief selection date

The St. Landry Parish School Board on Thursday agreed to set a Feb. 7 meeting date to select a superintendent, a matter delayed several months after two board members were indicted for allegedly asking for bribes from one candidate in exchange for their votes.

Several board members said prior to Thursday’s vote that it is time to select a superintendent after board members John Miller and Quincy Richard were accused by federal officials of asking interim Superintendent Joseph Cassimere for $5,000 each in return for their support.

Prosecutors are alleging that Miller and Richard met with Cassimere several times in the three months before the scheduled Sept. 26 superintendent vote and initially requested $7,500 each in return for the votes they planned to cast for superintendent.

Since their federal indictments, both Miller and Richard pleaded not guilty to the bribery charges when they were arraigned in November.

At Thursday’s meeting, Miller and Richard were among the nine board members voting to include the superintendent selection as an item on the Feb. 7 meeting agenda.

Richard said before the vote that all five superintendent candidates previously interviewed by the board should be allowed to attend the Feb. 7 meeting along with Cassimere, who has served in an interim capacity since March.

Those candidates include Port Barre High Principal William Duplechain, St. Landry Supervisor of Child Welfare and Attendance Edward Brown, Daniel Rawls, a principal at Stephensville Middle, and Charles Michel, a special education supervisor from Lafourche Parish.

Board members Ronald Carriere and Randy Wagley said the superintendent’s selection should not be done hastily.

Wagley said “feedback” from the constituents he represents in the Opelousas area feel there should be no superintendent selection in St. Landry until the legal matter involving Miller and Richard is resolved in the federal court system.

“No one is coming up to me and saying you have to have a superintendent right now. I think it should be however long it takes to get the right person,” Carriere said.

Board member Anthony Standberry he feels that other school systems are wondering what’s occurring with St. Landry’s inability to choose a superintendent.

“I talk to people in other parishes and they can’t understand what’s going on here in St. Landry,” Standberry said.

Voting to approve to schedule the superintendent’s selection for Feb. 7 were Miller, Richard, Standberry, Charles Ross, Candace Gerace, Huey Wyble, Roger Young, Kyle Boss and Harry Fruge, who was unanimously selected as board president at the start of the meeting.

Raymond Cassimere and Carriere abstained while Wagley voted “no.” Board member Josie Frank was not at the meeting when the vote occurred.

Joseph Cassimere and Raymond Cassimere are brothers.

Frank was not at the meeting when the board deadlocked 5-5-1 for vice president. Wagley abstained on that vote.

Frank was later chosen 6-5 on the second vote for vice president. Fruge cast the deciding vote after voting for Wyble on the first vote.

Board attorney Gerard Caswell agreed Frank’s selection was legal, although she was not present to accept the vote. A person who attended meeting contacted Frank with the result of the second vote and said Frank had sent a text message acknowledging her approval.

Caswell said the text message from Frank made it a legitimate vote.

After his selection as president, Fruge outlined goals he hopes to attain during his term.

Among those goals are continuation of the parish’s improving state test scores; improvement of the district’s finances; improved communication among board members; working with state elected officials at combatting what Fruge called “the pressure by our governor to destroy public education”; and the selection of a superintendent.

Cassimere replaced Donnie Terron as superintendent. Terron replaced Michael Nassif, who stepped down as superintendent in November 2011. Nassif replaced the late Lanny Moreau.