St. Landry interim superintendent stays put

St. Landry Parish School Board members left their Thursday meeting the same way they did last month, after once again voting, but failing to choose a new superintendent.

Neither interim Superintendent Joseph Cassimere nor district Child Welfare and Attendance Supervisor Edward Brown received the necessary seven-vote majority from the 13 board members.

Voting for the superintendent was not an agenda item.

Instead, the agenda contained an item which indicated the board would only discuss reopening the advertisement for the position, a move that was defeated in an 8-4 vote with an abstention by Raymond Cassimere, the brother of Joseph Cassimere.

After unanimously placing the item on the agenda, the board cast ballots for Brown and Cassimere.

Anthony Standberry, Charles Ross, Randy Wagley and Josie Frank voted for Cassimere. Candace Gerace, Huey Wyble, Kyle Boss, Roger Young and board Presidenet Harry Fruge voted for Brown.

Also abstaining from the vote were Raymond Cassimere and Donnie Perron, who was sworn in at the start of the meeting as acting board member from District 6.

Perron served as the district’s acting superintendent for five months after Michael Nassif resigned as superintendent in November 2011. When Perron announced his resignation in March 2012, Cassimere was chosen as interim superintendent.

The district originally began a search for a new superintendent in September. After the position was advertised, the board interviewed five applicants.

Before a vote could be taken on those candidates, two board members, John Miller and Quincy Richard, were indicted by a federal grand jury for each allegedly receiving $5,000 in bribes in exchange for voting for Cassimere.

Miller and Richard, who both pleaded innocent in U.S. District Court in Lafayette, also abstained in Thursday’s superintendent voting.

Several residents and board members spoke Thursday about the board’s inability to select a superintendent prior to the vote on reopening the position for advertisement.

Arnaudville Elementary Principal Elsie Semien said Cassimere should be the board’s choice for superintendent.

Semien said Cassimere became interim superintendent when the school district was experiencing financial difficulties and a projected $3.9 million deficit following Nassif’s resignation.

Debbie Faul, a facilitator of the parishwide alternative school, said the public perceives the board as not wanting to hire an African-American superintendent.

Cassimere and Brown are both black.

“The perception of the public is that you are not voting for Mr. Brown or Mr. Cassimere because of race,” Faul said.

In other action Thursday, the board approved an extra $600 per month to help Cassimere with travel expenses in a 7-4-2 vote. He is still collecting assistant superintendent’s pay.

Ross, Gerace, Perron, Boss, Wagley, Young and Fruge voted “yes.” Those voting “no” were Standberry, Wyble, Richard and Frank.

Miller and Raymond Cassimere abstained.

Nassif earned a $100,000 annual base salary as superintendent in addition to $650 a month for travel and $500 per month for entertainment with receipts, Finance Director Tressa Miller said.