St. John School Board split over superintendent

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 18, 2005


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – Those St. John the Baptist parish school board members who thought the final steps would be taken in the Superintendent Michael Coburn contract saga at the meeting on Wednesday night were disappointed.

A possible three-year contract extension for Coburn has been the source of much controversy within the board over the past few months, which prompted several meetings between the superintendent and the school board executive committee to discuss negotiations.

At past meetings, the board has been divided, and several motions involving Coburn’s contract were shot down, leaving the issue at a dead end. The same four board members consistently voted against the rest of the board.

Though another executive session was on the agenda last night, the session did not take place due to the split in voting. A motion to go right into a vote on whether to accept the contract also did not happen.

Members Matthew Ory, Russell Jack, Clarence Triche and Keith Jones voted together on every motion, leaving the board at a 7-4 split. State law requires two-thirds of the vote for the board to go into executive session, waive policy or add to the agenda. In this particular board, that equals to eight votes.

At a special session called on March 17, Ory started the meeting by asking the board to advertise for a new superintendent. The meeting ended with the board voting to have the executive com-

mittee discuss contract negotiations with Coburn. The board member received a copy of that contract earlier this week.

The voting process on items related to the contract issue is usually marked with what seems to be much confusion and lack of cohesive understanding amongst the board members. Even Coburn supporters have been very vocal about what they believe are Coburn’s flaws, and members appear to be in disbelief over the frustrating, back-and-forth situation

The Wednesday meeting prompted board member Russ Wise to announce, “Ladies and gentleman, we have embarrassed ourselves tonight,” at the meeting’s adjournment.

“The members already have received and looked over the contract,” Wise said later. “All we can do is have the vote and then try to rebuild the political fences that have been damaged over the last month or two.”

According to Wise, the board will hold another special meeting to try again, possibly on April 21, and it will be structured in such a way as to prevent a repeat of the recent meeting.

“Next week, we will have a carefully worded agenda with one item on it and that is to consider and vote upon the superintendent contract,” he said.

Wise said that there are members of the board who, for their own political and personal reasons, want to delay the process for as long as possible.