Search may hit delay

LAFAYETTE — School Board member Greg Awbrey told board members Wednesday his request for an attorney general’s opinion about the board’s August decision to allow two residents to participate in the selection of a new superintendent was not an attempt to “hold up” the search process.

Specifically, the board agreed in August to allow two members of the public to participate in the interviews of candidates and make recommendations to the board about who they think should be selected.

“I just want to make sure we’re right,” Awbrey said. “If we’re not right, then we’re going to be in a jam like before when we’ve done things the wrong way.”

Awbrey said he plans to present a resolution that the board ask for an attorney general’s opinion at the board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Sept. 21.

Board members Hunter Beasley, who submitted the motion for public involvement at the Aug. 17 meeting, and Kermit Bouillion questioned the timing of the attorney general’s opinion.

The application period for the job closes on Sept. 12, and the board planned to begin interviews next month.

The plan includes naming a new superintendent in December, which is before Superintendent Burnell Lemoine’s retirement at the end of the year.

“What if the attorney general’s opinion takes six to eight weeks? What happens to our superintendent search?” Bouillion asked.

Board attorney James Simon told the board he’d prefer not to give an opinion on the issue until he’s presented with a “formulated question” and has time to research the issue.

Awbrey said he’s concerned that the committee includes a quorum of the board, and any decisions would be binding.

Beasley stressed that the two members of the public would not have any voting authority, but would only make a recommendation for the board’s consideration.

“We have invited hundreds of people to participate in this process,” board member Shelton Cobb said. “We have not allowed anyone to vote in this process. We haven’t said that we’re going to allow anyone to vote on this process other than the board members.”

Under Beasley’s proposal at the Aug. 17 meeting, the two residents would be involved in the interviews for the top 10 applicants and make a recommendation on their top choices to help the board narrow the field to three candidates.

The two members of the public would come from the Lafayette Public Education Stakeholders Council and the 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette.

Awbrey was absent from the Aug. 17 meeting.

Debate among board members at the August meeting centered more around the fairness of Beasley’s proposal of the two groups — with two board members pushing for equal district representation.

Later in the meeting, Awbrey said his “feelings” about the two public representatives participating in the superintendent selection process have been “misrepresented.”

“I think that this process is way too closed, rather than being open,” Awbrey said. “If we’re going to get citizens involved, why are we getting only two groups chosen by one person.”

After the meeting, Awbrey said he’d like the board to have a separate citizens committee that sends a recommendation to the board, but, he said, such a committee would only be possible if the current plan is dissolved.