Coburn contract confused

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 28, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE-The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board hopes to get one step closer to a conclusion to Superintendent Michael Coburn’s possible contract extension in a special session to be held later this week.

The issue of Coburn’s contract has been immersed in confusion lately as the school board members disagree with the school board attorney, Lloyd Leblanc as to whether a contract extension has already been offered to Coburn.

Leblanc said that on Jan. 20, during a meeting held at West St. John Elementary,

the board had already agreed to a three-year contract agreement. Members of the board say that never happened.

“I think it’s crystal clear that the board voted to enter into negotiations with the superintendent,” Executive committee member Matthew Ory said, “We did vote to offer, or to extend, or to agree.”

At the special session, to be held at Godchaux Grammar in Reserve on Mar. 31, the Executive Committee will discuss a resolution to seek the Attorney General’s opinion on the matter.

Ory said they are wanting to discuss it with the attorney general simply because he is “the attorney of attorneys.”

“We are just looking for another opinion, Ory said, “and we feel his opinion would carry more weight.”

The committee will also discuss hiring other counsel to assist the board in negotiations with Coburn.

According to Margaret Ann Laborde, director of personnel and legal services for the school board, hiring other counsel is not unusual.

“This is just one particular issue that Leblanc would not work on, “Laborde said, “Every now and then, for special cases, the board seeks special counsel.”

Ory said that since it was Leblanc’s opinion that did create conflict, if the board had a neutral counsel, they would have a better understanding of the situation.

According to a recent article in the Times -Picayune, since Coburn has been superintendent, LEAP scores have risen and there has been an increase in certified teachers and student enrollment.

School board member Russ Wise said he believes the board will arrive at a an agreement and Coburn will have a three-year contract before this runs out, albeit a different one. He also said that he feels the board should work with a sense of urgency. as Coburn’s existing contract runs out in June.

“He (Coburn) doesn’t want to wake up without a job,” Wise said, “and I don’t want to wake up without a superintendent.”

No one has given a specific reason as to why Coburn, who has been superintendent since 2001, has not already been offered the contract.

“It just may be hard to understand what is going on with 11 members,” Laborde said, “Some of them may have not wanted the terms, but it’s hard to understand with a board this size.”

Ory said there are many issues to be dealt with in the negotiations.

“I would need to sit you down for a couple of hours just to get you caught up,” he said.