School Board to consider restaffing, instructional time

The Lafayette Parish School Board is scheduled to vote Wednesday on Acadian Middle School Principal Linda Nance’s request to restaff the school next year with “professionals who are passionate about working with high poverty” students in a team-teaching model.

Nance’s request was first presented to the board at its March 20 meeting; however, board members wanted more information on her request to implement team teaching — an instructional model where teachers teach the same group of students and work together to plan lessons that address students’ weaknesses. Performance at the school has dropped in the past three years from 85.1 in the 2008-09 school year to 76.2, which is a D rating under the state’s accountability rating system, in the 2011-12 school year, based on data presented to the School Board.

A new policy approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education requires schools to score at least 75 out of 200 to avoid a failing grade.

The grades stem from a 2010 law pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. The grades are linked mostly to how students did on key state tests, including the LEAP test that fourth- and eighth-graders have to pass for promotion and end-of-course tests for high school students.

The Lafayette board’s meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Board members also will make a decision on the 2013-14 school calendar contested by some teachers and contracted bus drivers because it adds instructional minutes to the day to free up 12 days in the calendar for professional development and parent-teacher conferences scheduled during school hours.

Wednesday’s meeting also is the first since members voted 6-3 on April 3 to formally reprimand Superintendent Pat Cooper over the March 2012 hiring of Thad Welch as special assistant to the superintendent who did not have a high school diploma, one of the job requirements for the position.

Some board members claimed the hiring was a policy violation since Welch did not meet the job requirements for special assistant to the superintendent over facilities, maintenance, grounds and transportation.

Since January, a series of efforts by some board members to undo the action resulted in a 5-4 vote March 20 to eliminate funding for the position.

Welch’s salary is about $76,000; however, salary and benefits for the position total $102,313. A budget revision on the board’s Wednesday agenda eliminates the money from the special assistant position line item within the budget and moves it into a contingency fund.

Cooper has said he has no reason to fire Welch, who Cooper has said has saved the district money on renovations and improved the district’s custodial program.

The superintendent has maintained that the hiring policy was not violated and has cited a policy that weighs educational requirements at only 8 percent in selection criteria.

The Welch hiring issue has taken up parts of board meeting discussions since Jan. 9.

Board President Shelton Cobb said Monday that he hopes the board can “go forward” and “handle its business related to the 30,000-odd numbered students we have.”

Cobb said he does not think Cooper violated policy related to the Welch hiring and did not support the reprimand.

“I think if we want the system to be run by the superintendent, we should let him run it,” Cobb said. “If we feel he failed at the job, we should address it on the evaluation.”

Cobb said Cooper’s evaluation will be soon, but no date has been set.