School board takes action on principals

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2005


Staff Reporter

RESERVE-After what was a highly emotional hour for some, the St. John the Baptist Parish voted last night to replace two acting principals in the district with ‘regular’ principals, and transfer one acting principal to another school to become principal.

Willette Wallace, acting principal of East St. John Elementary, and Orlando Watkins, acting principal of Glade School will be replaced by Anita Miller and Patricia Triche, respectively.

Patricia Triche is currently the acting principal at Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet. Kelly Joseph, currently acting assistant principal for Glade School, will become principal there. Miller is an assistant principal from East Baton Rouge Parish.

Wallace has been acting principal of East St. John Elementary for three years, after being moved up from assistant principal. Prior to that she was assistant principal for Glade School. Orlando Watkins has been in his current position for 2002-2003 school where, previously, he was assistant principal at Glade.

From opening discussions on this issue, tensions ran high in the room.

Board Member Keith Jones almost immediately tried to table the matter due what he felt what was an oversight by administration.

At one point when Board Member Russ Wise tried to argue that Jones did not have the floor, Jones responded, “Excuse me, I thought I was here for 6:30,” a jab thrown in reference to the special meeting last week where Wise missed an important vote regarding Superintendent Michael Coburn’s contract.

As a result of that, Wise tendered his resignation.

Several people from the public went to the podium to give opinions on the matter, most in opposition to the change. A generous amount of the Garyville/Mt. Airy faculty were present to ask that Triche not be transferred.

Several people associated with Garyville Magnet spoke, saying the lack of consistency in administrators may be negatively affecting the school, and pointing out an importance of the student’s comfort with her.

Ann Harvey, who identified herself as a business leader in St. John, asked the board why the acting principals were not good enough to be permanent.

“You can’t expect the schools to get better if we play musical chairs,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent Willie Ocmond, in response to the speakers, explained the potential principals were chosen from 19 applicants and interviewed by a committee made up of administrators and teachers.

According to Ocmond, the committee then spent three days and numerous hours debating the qualifications in order to select the positions.

“If you do anything other than accept this recommendation, then you slap the three teachers in the face as well as the selecting committee,” Ocmond said.

“If you think this committee did something to harm this school system, then you can fire us all,” he added.

After numerous comments from the board, the vote was finally cast when Board Vice- Patrick Sanders said “we need to cut the (expletive).”

“We’re not servicing the children, and we need to vote on this,” Sanders said.

The motion to accept the recommendation of the committee and hire the interviewed candidates, passed 7-3, with one board member. Philip Johnson, being absent.

Those who voted against the recommendation were Jones, Russell Jack and Matthew Ory.

Triche, Joseph and Miller took the floor to meet the board and express to the public their good intentions.

In response to the strong show of support by Triche’s current faculty, Joseph said, “I promise you if the situation comes up again- you will be the same way with me.”

Triche also addressed the matter by saying she interviewed to be a principal in St. John parish, not for one specific school.

“I have faith in Mr. Coburn and the committee’s decision,” she said.