School finalists named

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 18, 2008

St. John’s Courtney Millet among top four selections


Staff Reporter

EDGARD- The St. John School Board unveiled the finalists for the new superintendent at the West Bank School board meeting at West St. John Elementary Thursday.

After more than an hour of closed session the St. John School Board unveiled their finalists for the replacement of current Superintendent Michael Coburn.

Four out of nine applicants for the position were announced as finalists by consulting firm McPherson and Jacobson.

The four finalists are: Dr. John Garris of New York, NY who is a high school principal in Newark, NJ; Executive Director for Teaching and Language at Central Kitsap School District Dr. Hertica Martin of Olympia, WA,; St. John director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Courtney Millet of LaPlace; and Superintendent of Bogalusa

Schools Jerry Payne of Pine Grove, LA.

Local candidates who were not asked to interview include Josephine Clement of LaPlace, Precious Joseph of Reserve and Stephenie Thomas of Vacherie.

Seven board members were in favor of their interviews with an abstention by Russell Jack.

Community and board interviews for the position are set for Jan. 22, 24, 29 and 31. The final decision will be made Feb. 7.

The superintendent search has been ongoing since the board rejected a proposal to extend Coburn’s contract. Coburn will step down this July after four years on the job.

Another issue at the top of the board’s agenda was accepting the resignation of District 5 board member Dowie Gendron. In a letter to the board stated he would be stepping down due to illness. He recommended James Madere to take his place on the board. The board unanimously accepted his recommendation, however, Madere will have to be sworn in by the secretary of state before taking the seat.

Choice International School of Music and Performing Arts in cooperation with East and West St. John High Schools presented three performances by St. John students, after introductions by Choice Music School owner Antoine Jasmine and St. John Schools Director of Education Precious Johnson.

Jasmine expressed his hope that St. John would hire Choice as a contractor to teach music, dance and performing arts to the students of St. John.

A later request by Choice to buy 2nd Ward High School was tabled pending evaluation of a bid opening for the school.

West St. John Civic Association was also trying to make their way into schools. The group was given a forum to discuss their hopes of helping the community of the West Bank of St. John. In a surprise move District 6 board member Keith Jones motioned to eliminate fees in association with the civic associations use of schools in the future. The motion passed with seven yeas and one abstention by Jack.

Dr. Janel Bailey Wheeler, a St. John alumnus was inducted as the first member of the St. John School Board Hall of Distinction. Wheeler was a 1990 graduate of West St. John High and a clinical associate professor at Xavier University’s College of Pharmacy.

Also recognized was West St. John High Football coach Laury Dupont who will retire at the end of the school year after 20 years of service.

While reading off Dupont’s numerous awards and accomplishments, Coburn added some humor to the proceedings.

“Coach, you need to apply for the superintendent position with all that stuff,” Coburn said.

The Baton Rouge Chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association was recognized for their contribution of close to $2000 to Prostart, the school’s culinary training program.

On the business side, the financial authorizations were made for the completion of Emily C. Watkins Elementary.

Authorization was granted for officials to seek proposals on property insurance- last year’s insurance was lower than anticipated at $676,560.

Aluminum bleachers were purchased for the East St. John Baseball Field.

Finance Director Felix Boughton gave his report on the school system’s surplus budget. Though he warned that tax revenue was lower than anticipated this year the surplus would likely be over $5 million for the year.

In closed session the board discussed the appeal of expulsion for a Lake Pontchartrain Elementary student. Upon returning District 8 board member Russ Wise proposed to send the student to the district’s disciplinary school “so he may continue his education.”

Also discussed in closed session was a lawsuit against the school board, Alexander vs. St. John the Baptist School Board, dealing with toxic mold in the former Glade Elementary.