It was Monday morning, and LPSB member Tehmi Chassion had just arrived for a surprise visit at J.W. Faulk Elementary School when he got the call on his cell: Northside High Principal Melinda Voorhies had just dropped off her resignation letter at the central office.
For Chassion, this must have been huge news, or at least enough of a big deal for him to cut short his visit at the long-struggling elementary school — a school that needs all the attention it can get from elected officials like Chassion. (The school sits at a crossroads hinging on whether Chassion and his fellow board members decide whether they'll finally support, or continue dismantling, the efforts started under Pat Cooper’s superintendency to greatly shorten the achievement gap between the vastly different economic worlds that make up Lafayette Parish by directing funds and top-notch personnel toward historically struggling schools like J.W. Faulk.)
The elementary school’s issues, however, would have to wait; Northside needed him more. So too would Carencro Middle School, where Chassion — after spending much of the morning and early afternoon at Northside — would make another surprise visit that afternoon to spread the word on Voorhies' resignation among the faculty at the middle school, which, it's worth noting, is located far outside the boundaries of his political district.
And as Chassion was spreading the word, news of Voorhies’ departure was also making its way to the local media, prompting a flurry of stories with quotes from officials like Chassion and interim Superintendent Burnell LeJeune portraying the resignation as a surprising and saddening development.
Here’s KATC TV3 talking on Monday with both Chassion and LeJeune:
“She felt it was time to move forward, and as a school, and as a district, our commitment is to continue to move [N]orthside forward,” Lafayette Parish Interim Superintendent Burnell LeJeune said.
Voorhies was hired by former Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper to turn Northside around.
“I think overall, it’s a sad day for Northside, and the Northside community,” Lafayette School Board member for District 4 Dr. Tehmi Chassion said.
Chassion is concerned this resignation will delay Northside’s turnaround.
“We were coming up with that plan, and to have the bombshell dropped on us this morning, we just have to wait and find out what’s going on,” Chassion said. “I would like to assure District 4, the people of my community, that we will turn Northside around.”
This narrative that was fed to local media depicting Voorhies’ resignation as a sad and unexpected turn of events that will negatively impact the high school’s turnaround efforts — as seen not only in KATC’s news segment but nearly all other local media reports on Monday's development — is in no way representative of what actually went down.
So what really prompted Voorhies' decision? Why did Chassion spend most of the day at Northside? And why did he show up unannounced at Carencro Middle later in the day (despite a previous warning and ethics complaint filed by the school's principal for that very issue)?
We’ll have those answers and more here at TheIND.com later today.