Lemoine's contract up in the air

by Heather Miller

The contract extension, if approved, would mark the third time the Lafayette Parish School Board has granted a longer contract for Lafayette Schools Superintendent Burnell Lemoine. The Lafayette Parish School Board is set to begin a closed-door discussion Wednesday on the future of Burnell Lemoine, the school system's superintendent of almost four years.

The board's task at hand is deciding whether to extend Lemoine's contract, which expires on Dec. 31, until May 2012. Board members tell both The Advocate and The Daily Advertiser that the potential contract extension stems from talks with Lemoine and time constraints in searching for a new school system leader. Lemoine has said during previous contract talks that he would like to retire:
The extension will provide more time to scout for a replacement and prevent an "awkward" mid-year transition, if Lemoine left in December, [Board President Mark Allen] Babineaux explained.
The contract extension, if approved, would mark the third time the board has granted a longer contract for Lemoine, a former LPSS chief academic officer who was promoted to superintendent in 2007 after the Board terminated James Easton. When Lemoine's contract was extended in September 2010, the board said at the time it would allow Lemoine to finish out the 2010-2011 school year and give LPSS more time to find a new superintendent:
Forgoing a superintendent search to stay with an interim and renew his contract by small extensions, as has been done with Lemoine, is not traditional, especially with a larger-sized district like the Lafayette Parish School System, superintendent experts said.
Board President Babineaux tells The Advertiser that the search for Lemoine's "not an emergency," but some civic leaders and outspoken critics of Lemoine and the School Board disagree.

100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette recently asked the School Board to wait until it selects a permanent superintendent and a long-term education plan before asking voters to approve a new property tax, which would be used to fund the first phase of a $1.1 billion facilities master plan.  LPSS has in the past spent its maintenance funds on other programs, leaving many of the district's schools and other facilities in disrepair.

As part of the long term plan, 100 BMGL wants to see a significant decrease in the achievement gap that continues to place Lafayette's poorest black students in the bottom bracket of education statistics. And if the board does decide to keep Lemoine in place, 100 BMGL and other civic leaders, like Cajundome Director Greg Davis, expect him to make the same tough decisions on how to improve the district's scores and increase transparency for the public stakeholders.

Whether the board has taken the group's property tax request seriously could be determined at Wednesday's meeting; the meeting agenda calls for a discussion on placing the property tax proposal on a fall ballot.

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the School Board office. Read more on Lemoine and the School Board here and here.