Search begins for a new superintendent

by Heather Miller

For Board Member Tommy Angelle, a search committee isn't needed thanks to a new "caucus" of board members conspiring against him. The Lafayette Parish School Board took its first action Wednesday night toward the search for a new superintendent, opting not to hire an outside search firm to assist the board in finding a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Burnell Lemoine.

After muddled discussion and an off-road, contentious speech from Board Member Tommy Angelle, the board voted to form a search committee that will report back to the full board with recommendations on search criteria and advertising strategies for hiring the new top education official in the parish.

How large the committee will be and who from the School Board will serve on the committee has yet to be determined. Board Member Tehmi Chassion suggested that Hunter Beasley, District 8 board member, chair the committee and hammer out details on how the committee will be formed. Beasley, a UL Lafayette faculty member with a master's in education, has been part of numerous search committees through his day job and has an extensive education background.

But Angelle, backed by five other board members, balked at the idea, and the board eventually voted to have Board President Mark Allen Babineaux appoint three School Board members to serve on the search committee. Conceivably, the committee will also include community stakeholders from outside the school system, though how many and who those will be are not yet clear.

For Angelle, a search for a new superintendent isn't necessary because in his mind, there's a new "caucus" of board members who are conspiring against the system and already have a new superintendent in place.

Angelle was referring to a recent phone conversation he had with Board Member Kermit Bouillion over whether to extend Lemoine's contract another six months. Apparently, Bouillion called Angelle before the vote was scheduled to inform him there were five board members, Bouillion included, who would not vote to extend Lemoine's contract.

" 'There's five of us, and four of you' is what [Bouillion] told me," Angelle said during the meeting. "He caucused five board members. If I had caucused members of the school board, the organizations that didn't want to see me in this seat would have scoured the streets of Carencro ...

"In that conversation, there was one name that came up for superintendent," Angelle continued. "So there might already be a superintendent in place - and we might not have any say so."

In his quick comeback, Bouillion said he "asked the opinions of my friends, my colleagues," as he does on any issue coming before the school board. Most government bodies, he argued, already have a good idea of how the vote's going to go before it takes place.

For the record, we don't yet have a new superintendent. Lemoine has another seven and a half months to serve. And for those bitterly outside the imaginary loop, we'll keep you posted.