Staffing discussed as new school year approaches

Published 10:57 am Saturday, July 29, 2023

LAPLACE — With a new school year on the horizon, the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board is taking a close look at staffing.

An interim superintendent will be named during a Special School Board meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 31 inside the Godchaux Grammar cafeteria.  A severance agreement will be discussed during an executive committee meeting beginning 30 minutes before the School Board meeting.

After the interim is named, a formal search and advertising for a new superintendent will be launched. School Board President Shawn Wallace said the interim superintendent’s appointment can last up to six months.

Superintendent Rebecca Johnson notified the School Board of her resignation last week, around the same time the district was notified of unrelated resignations of other Central Office employees, notably Chief Financial Officer Jawanza Joseph.

During a School Board workshop on July 26, Johnson provided an update on the search for a new CFO. As of now, all of Joseph’s responsibilities have been dispersed between the accounting supervisor, staff accountant, and the external fiscal programs supervisor within the Business & Finance/Payroll Department.

“The good thing is we have a staff to be able to disperse that to,” Johnson said. “Ms. Joseph has done a great job since she has been here of o cross-training everybody in the department, so I feel totally confident we will be able to move forward until a new CFO is hired.”

The application portal for the CFO position closed on July 28. As of Wednesday morning, there were three applicants. Of these, Johnson said only two could be viable candidates because one of the applications was incomplete.

The application portal also closed July 28 for the Land and Facilities Supervisor position. Johnson said responsibilities have been dispersed through the department in light of the current vacancy, and the district had received applications from “three equally qualified” individuals as of July 26. According to Johnson, one of the applicants is currently acting in a supervisor role in a school district, while another has experience serving as a land and facilities manager in a school facility.

The School District will soon be on the lookout for a Purchasing Director and a director of Technology as veteran staff members retire.

Johnson said Purchasing Director Janice Gauthier is planning to retire at the end of October and recommended that the position be advertised beginning on August 14. Ideally, the role will be filled by September 11, giving the new hire an opportunity to train under Gauthier for a month and a half.

Supervisor of Information Technology David Andras will also be retiring. Johnson suggested that it may be more cost effective for the district to hire a contractor to fill Andras’ role.

Teacher vacancy numbers are ever-changing, but Johnson is confident the district is in a good position to have classrooms staffed by the start of the school year.

As of July 25, there were 16 teacher vacancies. Nineteen long-term substitute teachers indicated they would take unfilled positions if all roles are not filled by the beginning of the year.

Approximately 58% of the district’s teachers are certified. Of the 140 uncertified instructors, 98 are currently enrolled in a program to become certified, and Johnson said many have made commitments to remain in the district for five years after obtaining their certifications.

A new teacher orientation was held July 28, and School Board members discussed opportunities to attract new hires. According to Johnson, St. John Public Schools teeters between the third and fourth for highest teacher pay among school districts across Louisiana.

Additional updates on the 2023-24 school year preparations can be found on the St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools Facebook page.