Apr 4, 2013 3:16 PM by Tina Marie Macias
An emotional Lafayette Parish School Board meeting culminated late last night with board members approving a letter of reprimand against Superintendent Pat Cooper for insubordination.
KATC's Akeam Ashford will have more on this story at 5 and 6 o'clock.
During the 7-hour-long meeting, board members were accused of micromanaging and being defiant of change and Cooper was accused of lying, intimidation and breaking state law and board policy. Read the reprimand here. Read Cooper's rebuttal here.
"What was a very, very petty issue is now larger than life," board member Tehmi Chassion said. "I need to trust you to have you as my superintendent. ... I don't want to be told when I bring issues to your doorstep that I'm meddling."
Cooper was reprimanded over his hiring and continual employment of special assistant Thad Welch, who makes $76,000 annually and does not have a high school diploma, which was listed in his job description.
The board voted 6-3 to reprimand Cooper. Chassion, Greg Awbrey, Rae Trahan, Tommy Angelle, Hunter Beasley and Mark Babineaux voted to reprimand Cooper.
Cooper who maintained that he has not broken any laws or policies and said Welch was the most qualified job candidate, even if he did not have a high school diploma.
Cooper rebutted board complaints of him during a 30-minute opening comment speech. Read the rebuttal here. Later, more than 30 business leaders, principals and community leaders spoke in support of Cooper during an hour and 45 minutes of special comment.
"The underlying point is that this is a fight for who runs the school system, individual members of the board or the superintendent who was hired to do just that," Cooper said. "It is a faith about expecting and demanding that people tell the truth for the children instead of fueling a political fire for their own gain."
Although the reprimand was not considered by the board until six hours into the 7-hour-long meeting, the topic of Cooper's performance was at the forefront of the board meeting, which ended after 12:30 a.m. today. Only Kermit Bouillion, Shelton Cobb and Mark Cockerham voted against the reprimand.
"We didn't bring you here for this. We brought you here for change," Cockerham said. "This was not a big deal. They're just trying to pin you in a corner ... I support you. If you're not here, I don't think I'll be here."
The issue of Welch's employment has been a point of contention between the board and Cooper for months, and Chassion said he has been bullied because of it. His has received flat tires and his personal life has been probed during the time, he said.
People have questioned his educational credentials, how many children he's fathered and asked whether he has ever experienced legal trouble, Chassion said.
"Who give a crap about your flat tires," Cooper said later, adding that he does not have time to bully people. He said he has never been treated with such disrespect in his 42-year career nor has he ever been reprimanded.