Saying “a school system at war with itself over administrative matters is unjustly turning its focus away from students and the district’s educational goals,” the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce this week expressed dissatisfaction with the Lafayette Parish School Board’s vote to hire an outside law firm to “investigate” vague allegations against Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper.

Here’s the release:

The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce has been a long-term champion for students in public education. Both individual members and companies have collaborated and donated time and other resources to assist in various initiatives for decades. Most recently, the chamber embraced the opportunity to improve the Lafayette Parish Public School System by showing its support for actions taken by its school board — the hiring of Dr. Pat Cooper, who has a proven track record for improving public education systems, and the approval of a turnaround plan for public education in the parish.  

Despite its prior approval, we now find ourselves in a position to insist upon the school board’s support of the same turnaround plan and to support Dr. Cooper in the role for which they hired him. The turnaround plan focuses on students, allocates resources to the children, and brings together the school board, administration, employees, and other community stakeholders to make significant progress in public education.  We believe that the children of our community deserve the very best education.

Over the past year, the community has unfortunately witnessed numerous public disagreements between school board members and Dr. Pat Cooper.  The vast majority of the disagreements have nothing to do with educating our children.  Instead, the focus of some school board members has shifted from governance to management issues which are the responsibility of the superintendent.

During last week’s School Board meeting, the board passed an open-ended resolution to investigate Dr. Cooper. The business community has three major concerns regarding the resolution. First, it’s not necessary. School board members should be working directly with Dr. Cooper to resolve any issues. Secondly, the resolution did not specify why he was being investigated. And, third, it did not provide the anticipated cost of conducting such an investigation. Furthermore, the vague resolution language has led to speculation that is unfair and is now damaging our community both within and outside of Louisiana.  

While we do recognize the challenges of the implementation of Act I as it relates to roles, responsibility and authority for the Board and the Superintendent, a school system at war with itself over administrative matters is unjustly turning its focus away from students and the district’s educational goals. Such division further lessens trust and confidence in the public school system and deters new business investment in the area.

The Chamber represents 1,100 businesses in our community — serving the majority of employers and employees and their families. Our membership and leaders in the community are overwhelmingly expressing dissatisfaction with the resolution to hire legal counsel for an open-ended, vaguely-crafted investigation. We urge the school board not to move forward with implementation of the resolution, but rather, to work with Dr. Cooper to resolve their issues. We cannot stand by quietly if the school board chooses to divert much-needed financial resources from our children to legal fees.  gain, Dr. Cooper was hired by the school board because of his proven track record for improving other public school systems. It’s time for school board members to work with him and focus on improving the public school system here in Lafayette Parish for the benefit of our children.

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