The process of formally charging Superintendent Pat Cooper was put into motion Thursday night following a recommendation from the attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation.
Attorney Dennis Blunt cited 10 instances in which Cooper may have violated state law or board policy. His presentation was followed by a 6-3 vote of the board authorizing him to begin preparing formal charges.
“During the tenure of Dr. Cooper as superintendent, there has been conduct, in my opinion, unbecoming of the professional instructional leader of the Lafayette Parish School System,” Blunt told the board.
It’s unclear when Blunt will present the formal charges to the board, but once that happens, a provision in Cooper’s contract allows him an additional 20 days to prepare a response before the board is allowed the opportunity to initiate termination proceedings.
What’s troubling about this situation is that three of the board members who have consistently pushed for Cooper’s investigation, and ultimately his termination, are leaving their seats come January. This group includes Mark Allen Babineaux, Greg Awbrey and Rae Trahan.
The termination of a superintendent is big, and a decision of this magnitude should arguably be left to the new board seated in January, as the responsibility of the school system will rest on their shoulders, not the three board members who have decided to jump ship. Likewise, these three board members have been opposed to Cooper’s superintendency from the very start, and the outcome of Thursday’s report by Blunt shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering he was hired, and paid, by a board with an ulterior motive to remove Cooper, even if that’s the last action they make as board members. So ultimately, Blunt was giving his clients what they wanted — a report catered toward meeting one specific end: the ouster of a superintendent.
Another aspect to this story is the federal lawsuit filed by Cajundome director Greg Davis and his attorney Gary McGoffin, which calls for the disqualification of board members Tehmi Chassion and Mark Allen Babineaux from voting on any measures related to Cooper’s employment. The suit lays out a series of examples detailing the bias of each board member toward the superintendent. It’s unclear when this matter will go before the court, but it could play a role in stopping the effort to fire Cooper, or at least in delaying the issue long enough for the seating of a new board in January.
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