Posted: Oct 24, 2011 11:58 PM by Jim Hummel
Updated: Oct 24, 2011 11:59 PM
It's been a turbulent week for the St. Landry Parish School System and tensions were high at a special meeting Monday, called to address leadership changes. The board gathered to appoint an interim replacement for Superintendent Michael Nassif, but yet another administrator's chair was vacant at the meeting.
Monday morning, Jim Olivier, one of two assistant superintendents in the parish, submitted his own resignation. While school officials confirmed to KATC last week that Nassif was taking an extended medical leave before retiring, those same officials could not comment on Olivier's sudden departure.
Since Olivier resigned applications will be accepted for his job just like any other vacant position. As for the superintendent's position, Nassif will not officially retire until his sick days run out and it's unclear how long that will be, but in the meantime his position cannot be filled, which is why an interim appointment is necessary.
School board members nominated two people as candidates for that interim role: Joseph Cassimere and Donnie Perron.
By a vote of 7 to 5, Perron was appointed interim superintendent, but not before a contentious debate among the board. Several board members made it very clear: they don't think Perron is qualified for the job.
"This is your board, your elected officials taking you down the drain," said district #12 board member Josie Frank after it became clear Perron would be getting the appointment.
Perron has 33 years experience in the district. He's worked as a teacher, a coach, an athletic director and most recently as a supervisor of instruction (overseeing physical education), but he does not have any experience as a superintendent. The other candidate, Josephe Cassimere does have that experience: he's been one of the assistant superintendents for the past 11 of his 38 years in St. Landry Parish.
Frank also expressed concerns that race may have played a role in the board's vote, as all board members voted along race lines: Caucasians voting for Perron, African-Americans for Cassimere.
"I don't think it's coincidental, I think what you see is an organization pretending to be unified," said Frank.
As for Perron, he says he was disheartened by the tone of Monday's meeting, but is not discouraged.
"I'm anxious to get started, we have good people and we're going to get our system back on track," he said.