Former Superintendent James Easton has fired off a letter to Lafayette Parish school board members relaying that, while visiting the state Capitol last week, Deputy Superintendent Lawrence Lilly greeted him with an expletive that begins with the letter F. Current Superintendent Burnell Lemoine was also copied on the letter.
I happened to be at the Capitol that day and witnessed the incident, which would have remained in the unreported ugly politics file had it not been for Easton’s letter.
The former superintendent had just testified before the House education committee, expressing his support for HB 851, the controversial bill that attempts to rein in school boards from micromanaging superintendents. Following the vote, as the crowd spilled out of the committee hall into the lobby area at the back end of the Capitol, Easton walked up to where Lemoine and Lilly were standing. I had just been talking to Lemoine and was also standing right there. Easton shook hands with Lemoine and then, as he often does with people, gently poked Lilly and said “who’s your friend? who’s your friend” When he went to shake Lilly’s hand, the deputy superintendent just stared at him, then flatly said “F$%* you”. Lemoine then turned and motioned Lilly away from Easton.
In his three-page letter, Easton muses, “I tried to think of what I could have done or what anybody could have done to make Mr. Lilly so angry that he would react in such a highly unprofessional, discourteous, and dastardly manner, while in the presence of many other persons in the immediate area. I thought ‘what a terrible representation that was of such a high ranking personnel in the Lafayette Parish System.’” Easton also writes that he replayed the incident in his mind during his drive back to Lafayette that day, and on into the next day. He begins his letter, “I write after considering whether I should do so and having decided that I should.” The letter concludes, “I would hope that the actions of School Board personnel, particularly those representatives in high places, be more professional, and that their actions be designed and implemented to guide our students on the appropriate path, rather than derailing reason, courtesy, and professionalism.”
Don't expect Easton’s letter to get much traction. Sure, Lilly’s actions were unbecoming of a representative of our school system, but it’s also no secret that there’s a history of mutual antagonism between Easton and Lilly. While superintendent, Easton transferred Lilly from his job as director of personnel to director of buildings and maintenance. Despite some evidence that Lilly was doing a good job as maintenance director, Easton later demoted him to principal of Charter High. Under Lemoine, Lilly has been promoted to deputy superintendent and back in charge of personnel and human resources.