Aguillard is finalist for Lafayette post
By: JEAN L. KAESS
St. Mary Superintendent Donald Aguillard made the cut to the final three in the race for Lafayette Parish superintendent Tuesday night.
“I am excited and humbled to be considered a finalist for the LPSS superintendent position. Returning to the Lafayette Parish School System has always been one of my unfulfilled professional goals. I look forward to the next steps in the LPSS process to select a superintendent,” Aguillard said this morning.
Aguillard was chosen — along with Walter Gonsoulin, an assistant superintendent for the Starkville, Miss., School District and Pat Cooper, the CEO/President of Early Childhood and Family Learning Foundation in New Orleans — by board vote with each of the nine-member board choosing his or her top three candidates.
Gonsoulin was once again the top vote-getter with seven of nine board members voting in his favor. In the first round of voting, when the board whittled the field down from 26 to 10, Gonsoulin was the only candidate to receive unanimous favor — at that time eight votes.
Cooper had six votes Tuesday night, the same number received in the first round of voting.
Aguillard was tied with longtime Lafayette Parish employee Katherine “Katie” Landry after the votes were tallied Tuesday night with each receiving five votes. In the tie breaker, Aguillard received seven votes to Landry’s two, granting him the final spot in the finals.
While Aguillard was considered the front runner in the race when he entered, Gonsoulin has since taken over that position with his close ties to the area and top vote tallies. Although he currently works in Mississippi, Gonsoulin began his career as an elementary school teacher in Iberia Parish and held administrative positions in St. Martin Parish.
Cooper was mired in controversy prior to the interviews when he withdrew his name from consideration and then re-entered the race.
St. Mary Parish School Board President Roland Verret said he was surprised at the tie, but “expected Dr. Aguillard to make the final three. We feel he’s a qualified applicant. It’s totally his choice to leave the parish, but we hope he remains … He’s a qualified person and has implemented several quality programs that have bettered our system.”
If Aguillard does leave for Lafayette Parish, Verret said, “Our loss would be their gain.”
Board member Murphy Pontiff of Franklin echoed Verret’s comments.
“We need to keep him here some kind of way,” Pontiff said this morning upon learning of the LPSS board’s selection.
The next step in determining who will replace the Lafayette Parish superintendent when his contract expires in December begins Thursday when the protocol committee meets at 3:30 p.m. to determine which questions will be asked of the finalists.
Following that, there are community visits to each finalists’ home parish. No timeline has been given for those yet. After the visits, a public forum will be held to determine if a second round of interviews is needed. At the public forum, each candidate will give their original PowerPoint presentation to the public, and then there will be a moderated panel discussion of questions submitted by the public and selected by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette professors.
If not, the board would vote for the new superintendent, with the expected date for naming the new administrator being Dec. 7.
It is expected that the new superintendent would take over the position in January; however, Verret said that Aguillard has leave accumulated and could leave St. Mary Parish before the new year if he were selected to lead Lafayette Parish’s school system.