School Board approves new west bank principal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 3, 2010

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board Tuesday approved the appointment of Serina Singleton as the new principal of West St. John Elementary School, a position vacated by Gail Creecy on Feb. 22.

The approval did not come without ample discussion, however.

Although the particulars of the debate that preceded the approval were not directed at Singleton, some board members questioned the process by which the new principal was chosen.

Singleton was chosen following a process that included an application, an impromptu writing sample and a nine-question interview by a selection committee.

Board member Russell Jack, who represents the west bank school, questioned the selection of the committee, which consisted of Superintendent Courtney Millet, Assistant Superintendent Herbert Smith, Coordinator of Educational Technology Bonnie Dinvaut, Coordinator of Federal and State Programs Page Eschette, Director of Human Resources Leigh Ann Beard and West St. John Elementary Special Education Teacher Malleanor Hall. Millet explained Hall was chosen overwhelmingly by her peers to be the school’s representative on the committee.

Jack said, regarding the choosing of committee members, “I’d like to talk to the board about possibly inventing a policy,” to which board member Russ Wise retorted the committee was intended to take politics out of the process.

Board member Albert Burl III also had questions regarding the process, saying he believed many positions within the district were being cherry-picked.

“if they don’t think like you, they don’t get picked,” he told Millet.

Again Wise came to the superintendent’s defense. “We cannot hold the superintendent accountable if we go behind her (regarding personnel issues),” he shot back.

Burl responded, “The reason for this board is checks and balances.” He added he thinks about 75 percent of recent new hires have come from LaPlace Elementary School.

Wise responded, “Mr. Burl, the solution to that is to fire the superintendent. You can’t have it both ways.”

“I’m just questioning her, and that’s my job,” Burl said.

Burl also questioned the creation of an aspiring leaders group within the parish if candidates for leadership positions were not going to come from that group.

Millet responded, “In no way ever did it guarantee anyone a position.”

Before the final vote was taken, Jack offered a motion to table the issue until the next meeting, but that motion failed by a vote of 2-9. Ultimately, Singleton was approved by a vote of 10-1, with Burl casting the lone dissenting vote.

Despite the debate that preceded her approval, board members welcomed Singleton.

“You are about to become well aware that the West St. John Elementary community is well involved with the school,” said Jack.

Board Vice President Patrick Sanders added, “Please enjoy your first paycheck because every paycheck after that you’re going to earn.”

Previously, Singleton held the academic support position at Fifth Ward Elementary. The west bank resident has been with the St. John school system for eight years.

Regarding her new appointment, she said, “I’m on cloud nine.”

“I’m excited about working with the community,” she added, saying she liked the fact the school is a small one.

Singleton said she is excited to take over the reins for Creecy, who she said “laid a great foundation.”

“I’ll be trying to create new ways to do the same thing so the students and teachers don’t get bored,” she said.

One of her first challenges will be conducting school while major renovations are being done, a project slated to begin soon. But even that prospect could not get the parish’s newest principal down. “We’re about to leap into a brand new school,” she said.

In other business at yesterday’s meeting, the board was forced to reconsider a contract it approved at the Jan. 21 meeting for renovations to Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School.

Since the approval, Board Attorney Lloyd Leblanc’s office was made aware that one of the principles of thecompany that was awarded the contract was convicted of a felony in Orleans Parish in January 2009. As a result, A.M.E. Disaster Recovery’s license is under review by the state commissioning board.

Upon Leblanc’s recommendation, the board decided to vacate the accepted bid pending a due process meeting between the construction company and the state board.

The school board will revisit the matter during its next meeting on March 18.

Burnell Moliere of A.M.E. was convicted of bribing a school board member in Orleans Parish.

Also, the board was presented with the proposed school calendar for the 2010-11 school year. They will review it, and provided there are no complications, vote on the calendar on March 18.