Firm chosen to search for St. John superintendent

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 23, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

RESERVE – The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board took the first step in resuming the drawn-out superintendent search by voting to use the Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates executive search firm during Thursday night’s meeting.
The motion eventually passed with no opposition after board members had yet another lengthy deliberation about the practicality of choosing to do the search in-house versus using a hiring firm. Both views had valid points.
The tentative timeline for the search stated a new superintendent will be chosen by May 2, though the timeline was subject to board discretion.
Board member Keith Jones said he felt it would be wiser and more cost-efficient to conduct the search in-house, as he had during previous meetings. Board member Russell Jack echoed this sentiment, saying they had all agreed in the previous meeting to conduct the search in-house, but some members had changed their minds since then.
“This board is divided. We don’t know where we’re going. Personal vendettas have come in. I don’t know what it is, but I’m tired too,” said Jack.
Board member Russ Wise spoke on the side of using a hiring firm, saying, “I’m afraid if we do it in-house, politics will play far too big a role in it. I think the board needs to be as non-political as possible on this. Mr. Jack said we’ve already established enemy camps on this board. I don’t think we’re going to be able to function together in making a decision that’s this important. In addition to that, I think our current superintendent is doing a fine job.”
The earlier portion of the meeting was dedicated to discussion with the board’s attorney, Orenthal Jasmin. Jasmin revealed that the manner in which the board awarded the disaster management emergency contract to both CSRS and HGI Environmental Services was not in compliance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency rules, according to the legal council of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparation.
“FEMA reimbursement would be jeopardized. (Legal council) stated two main reasons why the current award was not in compliance. The first reason was that the manner in which the award was awarded was in absence of a written selection procedure, a direct violation of FEMA regulations. The other reason mentioned is the fact that we did an RFQ process instead of an RFP process,” said Jasmin.
An RFQ is a request for qualifications or quotations, usually used by a company who is inviting suppliers into a bidding process. An RFP is a request for potential suppliers to submit proposals, usually through a bidding process by a company that is interested in acquiring a commodity, service or valuable asset.
The board questioned why they had not been informed earlier. Jasmin said he was not aware of the violation until recently but alerted board members as soon as possible.
Jasmin and Felix Boughton, the executive director of business and finance, advised that it would be wise to start the process over from the beginning.
Jasmin said that he had already begun drafting a new RFP process so that board members could begin anew.
The next St. John Parish School Board meeting will take place on April 11 at 6 p.m. at Godchaux Grammar Cafeteria.