Jul 17, 2013 11:27 PM by Tina Macias

Lafayette school board evaluates, hires attorney to investigate Cooper

Superintendent Pat Cooper's job performance was the main topic of discussion at the Lafayette Parish School Board meeting tonight.

The board gave Cooper a fair evaluation but soon after voted 5-4 to hire a special attorney to investigate some of Cooper's actions.

The resolution, authored by board member Rae Trahan, originally said the board has received complaints about Cooper, which they need to investigate. It was later amended to just say an investigation is needed.

"We just need someone to investigate some of the allegations that are floating around out there," Trahan said. Some board members have taken issue with hiring a special assistant without a high school diploma, discrepancies in principal pay and

Cooper said the resolution caught him by surprise and he called the resolution a 'witch hunt.'"

"I've heard this law firm has a history of trying to get rid of superintendents," board member Mark Cockerham said. He called the resolution "preposterous."

The firm that will be hired is ?Grant & Barrow of Gretna. They will investigate Cooper and "report back to the Board as soon as possible with the results of such investigation, and, if necessary, to present evidence against the Superintendent in any hearing that might be necessary," according to the resolution.

Greg Awbrey, Mark Babineaux, Trahan, Tehmi Chassion and Tommy Angelle voted for the attorney. Kermit Bouillion, Cockerham, Shelton Cobb and Hunter Beasley voted against.

Before that vote, the results of Cooper's first evaluation were released. He earned a cumulative 4.067 on a scale of 0 to 8. On that scale, an 8 is distinguished, a 0 is unsatisfactory. A 3 is "average," 4 is "good" and a 5 is "very good."

The cumulative scores by category were:

  • Policy and governance: 3.91
  • Planning: 4.36
  • Leadership: 4.36
  • Organization: 3.8
  • Communication and community relations: 3.58
  • Professionalism:4.33

The Lafayette Parish School Board also:
- Approved Memorial Day as a student holiday.

-Approved a new discipline policy, which simplifies the process includes parent contact at every level. The plan toughens discipline.

-Learned the results of a discipline survey. Only 18% of teachers responded, and results were mixed. Fifty-five percent said they feel safe in school, but said between a fifth and forth of class time is spent on discipline. They criticized in-school suspension, out of school suspension and Moss Prep.

- Discussed how five principals hired in 2012 can be paid more than others. The board and Cooper disagreed about the law and agreed to get a legal opinion. Cooper said new state law, Act 1, gives him more authority over hiring, including deciding how many days a principal works. The five principals signed contracts to work more days that others, thus being paid more. Some board members disagreed, saying setting days is part of policy, part of the board's authority.



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