The top three applicants hoping to become the next top public schools administrator in Lafayette Parish will be at the LITE Center Dec. 13 for a public forum to be held the day before the Lafayette Parish School Board makes its final selection at a special board meeting Dec. 14.
The three candidates vying to replace retiring Superintendent Burnell Lemoine are Dr. Pat Cooper, CEO of an early education center in New Orleans; Walter Gonsoulin, a New Iberia native and current assistant superintendent in Starkville, Miss., and Katie Landry, a longtime Lafayette Parish school system administrator and current deputy superintendent in Lafayette Parish.
Beginning at 6 p.m. Dec. 13, the three finalists will make power point presentations for the stakeholders in attendance then participate in a Q&A session to be moderated by professors from UL Lafayette. Questions for the candidates must be submitted online through the LPSS website prior to the forum.
At Wednesday's regular board meeting, The Advertiser reports that board members offered brief thoughts on their visits to the three candidates' current school districts, describing all three finalists as "strong candidates:"
Gonsoulin worked to involve the business community in the school system, said Rae Trahan, a Lafayette School Board member who made the Starkville trip with [Board President Mark] Babineaux and Shelton Cobb. Babineaux said Gonsoulin is acting as superintendent of Starkville School District and had also applied for the open superintendent job there.
"They were really upset that we were seeking him out because they were hoping to keep him for their own," Trahan said.
Board members also visited McComb, Miss., where finalist Pat Cooper was superintendent from 1997 to 2007. While there, he implemented several programs such as an alternative school nurse program, a program for pregnant students and an early childhood program from birth to 5 years old.
Babineaux said all of Cooper's programs, except for the alternative school, are still operational.
Lafayette board members also visited New Orleans, where Cooper heads a foundation that created the Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood and Family Learning Center. It is located in the Central City section of New Orleans and houses early childhood programs, birth to first grade; a library branch, health clinic; and social service agencies.
Community members there described Cooper as a visionary, problem-solver and strategist, Babineaux said.
Landry, deputy superintendent of instructional services, has implemented several student programs, such as the Second Chance program that helps elementary students recommended for expulsion stay in school and another that helps overage middle school students catch up academically with their peers, Babineaux said.
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