'I'm embarrassed to be on the board with [Tommy Angelle].' - Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Cockerham, as quoted in Tuesday's Daily Advertiser.
[Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include additional information from Lafayette attorney Gary Mcgoffin on Burnell Lemoine's contract and to correct the name of the school board member who proposed shortening the length of Pat Cooper's contract from four years to two years. The Ind regrets the error.]
Lafayette Parish School Board member Tommy Angelle's performance at Monday's special school board meeting has earned the first-year rep some serious consideration for a very coveted award: Couillon of the Year.
Board members met Monday to finalize the contract terms of incoming Superintendent Pat Cooper, who was chosen in a 5-4 vote of the board last week to be the new top administrator of Lafayette Parish public schools. Hunter Beasley, Kermit Bouillion, Tehmi Chassion, Shelton Cobb and Mark Cockerham voted in favor of Cooper.
Those same five board members voted Monday night to accept the terms of Cooper's four-year contract, which includes a $190,000 annual salary, $700 a month car allowance, $160 a month phone allowance, 10 days a year alloted for outside consulting work and fully funded health insurance for Cooper and his wife.
His total package, according to The Advocate, is worth $48,150 more than the contract of retiring Superintendent Burnell Lemoine.
The contract terms were met with expected resistance from board members Angelle, Greg Awbrey, Mark Babineaux and Rae Trahan, most of whom scrutinized the length of the contract (four years instead of two years as proposed by Awbrey); the monthly cell phone allowance; the provision calling for paid security as needed, and the $33,000 a year increase in the new superintendent's salary over Lemoine's.
But Angelle's unfounded criticisms reached a new milestone in incivility Monday night when he used the word "carpetbagger" to describe the incoming superintendent.
"It's amazing what [someone] can demand when he's walking with five votes in his pocket," Angelle said in reference to the "Gang of Five" who voted Cooper in. "These are traits of a carpetbagger."
Cobb, who sat with Babineaux and Cooper to hammer out the contract, confirmed Tuesday morning that Lemoine's contract included many of the same provisions.
The only differences, he says, are the funding of insurance premiums for Cooper's wife, the increase in salary and the 10 days Cooper will have for consulting. Lafayette attorney, active member of the Lafayette Parish Education Stakeholders Council and past Civic Cup winner Gary McGoffin says Lemoine's monthly cell phone allowance was also less than the amount approved for Cooper Monday night.
Cobb couldn't immediately confirm how many days a year Lemoine was given for outside consulting, but says "he definitely had consulting days in his contract."
The only reason Cooper received more, Cobb says, is to compensate for the state retirement Cooper is giving up to return to the state education system.
Cooper's annual salary is less than the $226,651 national average for superintendents who oversee districts of this size, Cobb says, and more than $131,004 average for supers in Louisiana.
"I'm embarrassed to be on a board with [Tommy Angelle]," Cockerham told The Daily Advertiser following a fiery exchange between board members Monday night. "I don't know why he has even gotten on this board."