Nov. 19, 2014 04:41 PM

It was only a few months ago when the LPSB held the school system's purse strings with a death grip, but oh how board President Hunter Beasley's demeanor seems to be changing with the ouster of Superintendent Pat Cooper.

 

LPSB President Hunter Beasley

It was only a few months ago when the Lafayette Parish School Board held the school system's purse strings with a death grip, but oh how board President Hunter Beasley's demeanor may be changing with the ouster of Superintendent Pat Cooper.

Cooper's termination on Nov. 6 was followed by the board's selection of longtime school system employee Burnell Lejeune as the interim replacement.

After spending the last half-year steadfastly blockading each and every attempt by Cooper to allocate money for the school system's at-risk schools, Beasley seems to be going through an identity crisis of sorts. With Cooper out of the picture (he was fired Nov. 6) and Lejeune now filling his shoes, Beasley is getting mighty generous with the system's money.

According to tonight's meeting agenda, Beasley - a leader among the board's anti-Cooper, anti-spending contingent who was handed his walking papers with Nov. 4's election - is calling for an increase in Lejeune's pay, bringing the interim super's annual salary on par with what Cooper had been making: $150,000 a year with a monthly car allowance of $700 and a monthly cell allowance of $160. That's quite an increase from the $97,320 The Advocate reports Lejeune is making now.

This is no diss on Lejeune, but there was a reason Cooper was making what he made: Before his arrival in Lafayette, Cooper was considered a rock star of public education, having made his mark as an expert on effectively turning around troubled school districts in New Orleans and McComb, Miss.

Former Superintendent Pat Cooper

That's why his salary was where it was: He is a proven game-changer, one who wasn't given an opportunity to do the same here. For Lejeune, this marks his first stint ever as a super, and he's only serving in an interim role. That, of course, may change with seating of the newly elected board in January, as it will be tasked with finding a permanent replacement, and that could end up being Lejeune. Should that happen, a bigger salary adjustment would be in order.

But for now, Lejeune is just getting his feet wet.

Beasley's attempt to bring Lejeune up to the same pay grade as a superintendent with an extensive resume of on-the-job experience and proven results is not a wise use of the system's money.

And it certainly appears that it's just another slap in the face of a man who came here with only the best of intentions.

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