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Lafayette Parish School Board Gives Pat Cooper Good Evaluation, Hires Law Firm To Investigate Him

Lafayette Parish School Supt. Pat Cooper photo by KPEL
Lafayette Parish School Supt. Pat Cooper photo by KPEL

LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL) — Lafayette Parish School Board members gave school system superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper a good job performance evaluation Wednesday night but then voted 5-4 to hire a New Orleans area attorney to investigate complaints against him.

It was a sometimes contentious meeting that that prominently discussed school discipline, but things seemed to calm down after Cooper received his evaluation, an assessment of six key categories:

  • Policy and governance: 3.91
  • Planning and assessment: 4.36
  • Instructional leadership: 4.36
  • Organizational management: 3.8
  • Communication and community relations: 3.58
  • Professionalism: 4.33

Cooper’s 4.067 cumulative average was enough to get him a ‘Good’ rating, and it appeared the remainder of the meeting would be uneventful, but a resolution from board member Rae Trahan undid that.

That resolution sought to hire a Gretna, La., law firm–Grant & Barrow–to investigate “complaints regarding the job performance of Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper.”

“We just need someone to investigate some of the allegations that are floating around out there,” Trahan said.

Board member Mark Cockerham alleged Grant & Barrow has a reputation for getting superintendents fired, and he suggested that anyone who voted for the resolution would face the consequences during the next election season. Trahan countered, though, that the investigation is intended to clear allegations, not to get Cooper fired.

“If he is innocent, he will be proven innocent of anything,” Trahan said.

Cooper called the proposed resolution a “witch hunt.”

Votes are customarily displayed on several flat screen televisions within the board room and on the Acadiana Open Channel, but for an unknown reason, the 5-4 vote did not display as usual. This immediately elicited a reaction from board members Kermit Bouillion and Cockerham and from several members of the audience who demanded that the vote tally be shown.

Instead, a verbal tally of the vote was given: Greg Awbrey, Mark Babineaux, Trahan, Tehmi Chassion, and Tommy Angelle voted to pass the resolution. Bouillion, Cockerham, Shelton Cobb, and Hunter Beasley voted against.

It was not immediately known how much money the special attorney would cost taxpayers.

The drama continued into the closing comments from board members when Awbrey criticized the audience, administration staff, and fellow board members for their unruly behavior during the meeting.

“Mr. Awbrey, you have some nerve talking about behavior,” Cockerham responded, immediately bringing gasps from the rest of the board and a stern response from Awbrey and Cobb.

In other action, board members approved a new consequences to behavior guide–just in time for the new school year. The guide, as its name implies, outlines consequences for bad student behavior.

Chassion cautioned that the new policy may be responsible for a corresponding increase in suspensions and expulsions, but in the end, the board unanimously passed the new policy.

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