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Apr 4, 2013 12:51 AM by Tina Marie Macias

School board votes to reprimand Cooper

The Lafayette Parish School Board has voted 6-3 to reprimand superintendent Pat Cooper over his hiring and continual employment of special assistant Thad Welch.

"This letter of reprimand is given due to the actions of the superintendent, which the Lafayette Pairsh School Boar finds to be insubordination," the letter read.

The letter will be placed in Cooper's employee file and is his first reprimand in his 42-year education career, Cooper said.

Welch is paid about $76,000 a year for a position that required a high school degree. The letter of reprimand says Cooper hired Welch even with this knowledge, a violation of state law and board policy. In addition, he has kept him on even after the board removed Welch's funding.

"What was a very, very petty issue is now larger than life," board member Tehmi Chassion said.
Chassion, Greg Awbrey, Rae Trahan, Tommy Angelle, Hunter Beasley and Mark Babineaux voted to reprimand Cooper.

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."

Cooper maintained that he did not violate state or board policy. He said he was told that Welch could be hired even though he does not have a high school diploma.

"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."

Cooper rebutted board complaints of him during a 30-minute opening comment speech. Later, more than 30 business leaders, principals and community leaders spoke in support of Cooper during an hour and 45 minutes of special comment.

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