Lafayette Parish School Board Reprimands Superintendent Pat Cooper In 6 to 3 Vote
LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL) — School board members voted six to three to place a letter of reprimand in school system superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper’s file for his actions in relation to the hiring of special assistant Thad Welch, whom board members say doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for his job.
In a tense executive session that featured a heated back-and-forth between district 6 board member Greg Awbrey and district 7 board member Mark Cockerham, Awbrey accused Cooper of violating school board policy and state law when he hired Welch.
Welch does not have a high school diploma.
Referring to a copy of the Lafayette Parish School Board CGC, attorney Gary McGoffin insisted there was no violation of board policy or state law, pointing out that educational degrees need only make up eight percent of an applicant’s qualifications.
McGoffin said a letter of reprimand read aloud by Awbrey made no mention of a specific violation of policy or law. McGoffin hinted that without making any such specific reference, accusing Cooper of breaking such was tantamount to defamation.
An uncomfortable conversation took place when Tehmi Chaisson interpreted a comment by Cooper as a veiled threat, listen below for the audio for the tone of the conversation:
Here’s a transcript of the conversation:
‘Now, you may feel good about it tonight, it’ll catch up with you. I’ll try to help you, I’ll try to make sure that we work together’
‘Dr. Cooper, was that a threat sir?’
‘No, did you hear what I said? I just said whatever goes around comes around.’
‘That’s not what you said, sir…that’s not what you said’
Chaisson promised to bring legal action against Dr. Cooper if in fact the comments could be considered a threat.
In a public comments section early on in the more than six hour meeting and again before the vote for reprimand, a number of Lafayette business leaders, teachers, and parents spoke up in support of Cooper and his Turnaround Plan.
Those comments did little to sway the opinions of board members, though, as the final vote reflected.