St. Landry board delays superintendent vote

After extensive discussion Thursday, the St. Landry Parish School Board delayed until next month voting on a new superintendent.

Board member Huey Wyble provided no explanation before proposing a motion to postpone until March the selection of a superintendent.

The board approved Wyble’s motion 8 to 3, with board member Raymond Cassimere abstaining.

Cassimere is the brother of Joseph Cassimere, who has served as St. Landry’s interim superintendent for the past 11 months.

St. Landry has been without a superintendent since October 2011, when Michael Nassif resigned from the position. Joseph Cassimere followed Donnie Perron, who was named interim superintendent several days after the board learned of Nassif’s resignation.

Since then, the district has been faced with some serious issues, including several elementary schools being declared academically unacceptable; a financial crisis that resulted in the layoffs in May of nearly 70 employees; and the federal indictment of two board members, John Miller and Quincy Richard, on bribery charges after they each allegedly asked Joseph Cassimere for $5,000 in exchange for their votes for superintendent.

That vote was originally scheduled for September but was postponed after Richard and Miller were arrested by federal authorities. The two were indicted by a federal grand jury in October on bribery charges.

Joseph Cassimere has remained a candidate for superintendent as have Port Barre High School Principal William Duplechain, district Child Welfare Supervisor Edward Brown, Stephensville Elementary Principal Daniel Rawls and Lafourche Parish Supervisor of Special Education Charles Michel.

The five candidates were at Thursday’s meeting.

Also on Thursday, Debbie Faul, a facilitator of the district’s alternative school, told the board that she supports Cassimere’s selection as superintendent.

Faul said Cassimere should be chosen because he has been “an anchor” that the district’s school employees have needed during the past two years of financial crisis, layoffs, possible school closures and turmoil on the board.

Voting to delay the superintendent’s selection for another month were Wyble, Richard, Ronald Carriere, Kyle Boss, Josie Frank, Roger Young, Randy Wagley and board President Harry Fruge.

Those voting against the delay were Anthony Standberry, Charles Ross and Candace Gerace. Miller did not attend the meeting.

In other business Thursday:

VOTE TO CLOSE CRESWELL ELEMENTARY: The board unanimously approved Joseph Cassimere’s recommendation to close Creswell Elementary on May 24.

At the January meeting, Cassimere told the board he received a letter from state officials saying the Recovery School District intends to take over Creswell for the 2013-14 school year.

During Thursday’s meeting, School Board attorney Gerard Caswell said closing Creswell is the district’s only alternative to avoid the RSD’s proposed takeover of the school.

Caswell said the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education must approve requests by the RSD to take over a failing school. That approval from BESE has not occurred, he said.

Even with the board’s action Thursday, Caswell said, the district still cannot be sure whether Creswell will be taken over by RSD officials and operated as a charter school.

“If you do nothing, then you will guarantee that (the district) will lose the school,” Caswell told the board.

The board voted in September to keep Creswell open until the end of this school year, rejecting Joseph Cassimere’s proposal that the district inform the state that St. Landry planned to convert the campus into a virtual learning school.

Janice Mason, president of St. Landry’s Federation of Teacher’s organization, said the board deserves considerable blame for Creswell’s current situation.

Mason said the board neglected the school’s problems during the four years Creswell’s students received academically unacceptable state scores.

Cassimere said under his plan, students currently attending Creswell would be transferred to other schools when it closes.

He told Creswell Principal Kay Victorian that he plans to meet with the school’s faculty today to explain the implications of the board’s decision.