School appointments bring heated debate, then approval from board

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 22, 2008


Staff Reporter

RESERVE — There was confusion, discussion and contention Thursday night as the St. John School Board argued over the permanent placement of administrative officials in the waning hours of Superintendent Michael Coburn’s tenure that will end July 1, 2008 when Courtney Millet will take over the school’s top position.

The issue at hand was four administrative positions that were filled without the input of the incoming Millet, who has previously stated streamlining the school’s central administration as one of her goals.

The four jobs were executive director of curriculum and assessment and instruction, currently held by Millet, that will transfer over to Brenda Butler; coordinator of educational and instructional technology held by Bonnie Dinvaut; director of safe and drug free schools and alternative school hearing officer held by Elton Oubre; and executive assistant principal at East St. John High School held by Percy Williams.

In the end, the appoointments passed by a vote of 6-3.

After Board Member Patrick Sanders moved to vote on all personnel matters in one vote, Board Member Matthew Ory substituted a motion to vote on matters 6A separately, which dealt with the various leaves, resignations and retirements of school staff.

Articles 6B-6E dealt with permanent central office placements.

There was confusion on part of the board and School Attorney Lloyd LeBlanc on whether proper procedure was being followed.

“What are you voting on now?” asked LeBlanc.

“I only want to vote on 6A alone,” said Ory.

“Why don’t you just vote on them separately?” asked school board secretary Stormy Perry as muffled laughs broke out in the crowd.

Then Board Member Russ Wise entered late and proposed to table all personnel matters.?

“You are out of order Mr. Wise,” said Board President Gerald Keller who then brought the matter into discussion.

“She (Millet) should not be put in the position to be around people who were just put into their position after she was just announced as your new superintendent,” said Wise. “We can bring it up when we are in a position of stability at a future point.”

“If we are to take this step Dr. Millet is locked into a number of positions,” said Wise.

Coburn argued that Millet would have the ability to bring any position she wanted to eliminate before the board.

“We will be putting the process in turmoil,” answered Wise.

“You are creating turmoil right now sir,” Sanders said, generating laughs throughout the crowd. “I am not going to withdraw my motion.”

After Coburn explained the process of coming up with the positions to be filled as ordinary as per St. John Association of Educators standards, Sanders called the board to end discussion on the matter.

Finally the board voted to vote on the issue by the electronic vote board with Russell Jack, Keith Jones, Lowell Bacas, Sanders, Phillip Johnson and Ali Burl voting yea, Wise, Ory and Keller voting nay, Clarence Triche abstained and James Ray Madere was absent.

In business, Business Manager Felix Boughton recommended the board to accept an insurance package that would raise the school system’s insurance by 34%. Boughton said at the same time the value of St. John’s Property holdings had gone from $120 million to $220 million due to the cost to replace destroyed facilities in the inflated post-Katrina construction market.

After a prolonged discussion a contract renewal for grounds keeping at St. John’s Public Schools by Guidry’s Industrial was turned down in order for the board to open the contract to bidding.

“I do not see what all the hooplah is about,” said Wise. “We should never give access to new contracts without opening it up to bid.”

Burl moved to discuss declining participation in the annual Honor Roll Round-Up. Coburn entreated the board to find a different way to hold the event.

Earlier in the meeting, performing artist and music minister D. Montrell and his backup group Protégé were recognized by the board for their social presence in East St. John High School.

The Future Business Leaders of America announced their district conference winners. Kara Keller, Keri Parquet, Rashaad Collins and Nakeshia Nelson will represent St. John in state competition.

Students of the year were also announced. Michael Sanders from the 5th grade, Cambrey Dent from the 8th grade and Shaontra Antonio from the 12th grade will represent St. John in the regional competition as Students of the Year.