Superintendent makes Top 10 for Lafayette post
By JEAN L. KAESS
St. Mary Superintendent Donald Aguillard made the cut from 26 to 10 candidates for the post of top educator in Lafayette Parish.
Aguillard, appointed St. Mary’s superintendent in March 2004, has long been considered to have the inside track on the Lafayette position, according to published reports.
St. Mary Parish School Board President Roland Verret said this morning the board as a whole has not discussed what will happen if Aguillard gets the position or the logistics of locating a new superintendent.
Speaking solely on his own behalf, he said that the search likely would have to be conducted nationwide and probably would begin in March to allow the largest pool of candidates possible with the eventual superintendent changing districts in time for a new school year.
Between the anticipated December appointment of Aguillard in Lafayette, should he get the position, and the appointment of a new St. Mary superintendent, an interim superintendent would have to be appointed.
Verret said he has asked Aguillard to inform him if he learns it is probable that the job will be awarded. Verret added that the entire board will vote to appoint the interim school system leader.
School system records indicate that Aguillard has 391 sick days that would transfer to a new district. The more important number, though, is the 28 vacation days that can be paid or taken at his discretion, potentially shortening his time in St. Mary Parish.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has narrowed to 10 the list of candidates to become the newest superintendent, but the tardiness of one board member may have affected the outcome.
The board voted Tuesday night without member Tommy Angelle, who was late arriving as a result of a prior family obligation, in the first round of voting and needed a second round of votes to break a four-way tie.
In the end, Walter Gonsoulin, Katherine Landry, Aguillard, Pat Cooper, Craig Fiegel, Luis Gonzalez, Gary Jones, Wayne Alexander, Sheila Guidry and Maria Pitre-Martin were named the top 10 candidates to succeed current Superintendent Burnell Lemoine.
Gonsoulin was the only unanimous decision of the eight members who voted in the first round, while Landry received seven of a possible eight votes.
The voting, however, wasn’t without controversy.
After the first round of votes, seven candidates were voted in, but there was a four-way tie for the final three spots between Alexander, Guidry, Pitre-Martin and John Pate, all of whom received four votes.
Angelle, who arrived too late to vote in the first round but did participate in the tiebreaker, admitted once the meeting was adjourned that he would have voted for Pate had he been able to take part in the first round of voting. That would have propelled Pate into the eighth spot and left three candidates to vie for the final two spots.
Furthermore, Gail Jackson-Mitchell, who received three votes in the first round, could have received a vote from Angelle that would have placed her into the tie-breaker for the final spots.
“Pate was definitely going to be one of my choices,” Angelle said. “I’m disappointed that I was late and didn’t get to cast a vote, but I had to take my father-in-law to the hospital in Alexandria.”
Pate went on to lose out in the tiebreaker with five votes, while Alexander and Pitre-Martin each received eight votes. Guidry received six.
“I voted for Pate in the tiebreaker,” Angelle said. “I’m disappointed, but I’m going to go with the majority of the board. I believe that my fellow board members looked at all of the resumes and selected the 10 best candidates.”
Board President Mark Babineaux agreed.
“The vast majority of my top 10 were in the final group selected,” Babineaux said. “I feel very confident that we have a good slate of candidates in the top 10, and I don’t think we’ll be able to make a bad decision with this group. I’m very satisfied.”
Interviews are scheduled to begin later this month and a new superintendent could be selected as early as Dec. 7.
Aguillard said, at the time his application was announced, that his decision was a personal one.
“I spent the vast majority of my career working in Lafayette Parish … it is one of those opportunities to get back into Lafayette Parish. The opportunity was too great to pass up.”
“My decision to seek the position in Lafayette Parish has nothing to do with the circumstances in St. Mary Parish. It is a chance to go back to a parish that I consider home.”
Aguillard has 28 years of school system experience in Lafayette Parish, including 17 years in administrative positions in Lafayette Parish.
He was the director of Management Information Systems for the Lafayette Parish School Board, the area director for the Carencro-Northside geographical area of Lafayette Parish, assistant principal for Acadiana High School, principal at Carencro High School and a classroom teacher for about 10 years.
Lafayette Superintendent Burnell Lemoyne’s contract expires Dec. 31.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.