Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2005

{fonttblf0fswissfcharset77 Helvetica;}




f0fs24 cf0 St. John board stalled on Coburn contract


Staff Reporter

BATON ROUGE ‘d0’d0 A long-awaited opinion from the state attorney general’d5s office to aid the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board in matters of Superintendent Michael Coburn’d5s possible contract extension proved fruitless, as the office said it cannot issue an opinion.

For months, there has been confusion over whether Coburn was offered a contract extension at a school board meeting held Jan. 20.

While Coburn and school district attorney Lloyd Leblanc maintain the board voted to offer Coburn the contract and work out the negotiations later, most school board members said that did not happen.

At a meeting held on March 31, the board voted 6-4 to seek an opinion of the attorney general.

The attorney general’d5s office issued a statement claiming there is not enough information to make a decision on the matter, seeing as there is no written contract, but only a possible oral contract.

‘d2What the parties contemplated as to the form of that contract is a question of fact’d3 wrote the attorney general’d5s office, ‘d2We cannot provide an opinion’c9because a resolution of that issue would require us to determine questions of fact..’d3

‘d2They basically said, depending upon the facts, the superintendent could be right,’d3 Board Member Russ Wise said, ‘d2or the school board members could be right.’d3

However, in the attorney general’d5s statement, it is written, ‘d2a determination of that issue would depend on the Board’d5s intent on the matter.’d3

At the meeting Jan. 20, Wise made the motion on the controversial issue at hand. He said his intentions were to motion only to negotiate on Coburn’d5s contract, not to offer him one.

‘d2I would go to court and swear on a stack of bibles and say that was my only intent,’d3 said Wise.

Wise said he would never agree to vote on a ‘d2fill-in-the-blank’d3 contract, likening it to signing a contract to buy a car without first seeing it or finding out how much it costs.

The situation has only added to the ongoing saga that is Coburn’d5s contract issues. At that same meeting on March 31, the board voted 8-3 to allow the executive committee to go into negotiations with Coburn, prompting most to believe that Coburn would be serving as superintendent for another three years.

However, in later meetings, after Coburn met with the executive committee several times, board members who have made it clear they want Coburn out, were effectively able to stop several motions to allow contract matters to be discussed, leaving the state of the contract at a stall.

At a special meeting held on April 28, specifically designed to vote on the contract matter, Coburn opponents Matthew Ory, Keith Jones, Russel Jack, and Clarence Triche held their stance in voting against Coburn, with a surprise vote against Coburn by board Vice-President Patrick Sanders.

Wise, a Coburn supporter, who was absent at the time of the votes, tearfully resigned after coming in late and realizing his presence would have granted Coburn the extension.

Due to board policy, the board cannot vote again on the matter for 60 days after it failed. Coburn’d5s present contract expires in June.

Wise said that the attorney general’d5s release does not settle the issue one way or another, and it would now be up for the courts to decide. }