Louisiana School Superintendent Proposes Mediation to Resolve Differences with School Board
Friday, December, 6, 2013
Lafayette Parish Superintendent Pat Cooper, embroiled in a lengthy war of wills with the Lafayette Parish School Board over several ongoing issues, has made a formal proposal that the School Board and the Superintendent’s Office engage in professional mediation in an effort to break tensions and allow the two entities to work together more smoothly.
Tension stem from several issues: Cooper’s hiring practices (including an instance where he is accused of hiring a friend who was not qualified for the position), his adjustment of work schedules for some principals in the Parish’s school system and concerns regarding legal and construction costs at several school projects. The latter are especially sensitive for an area plagued by traditions of corruption in the public sector.
Cooper personally placed the proposal on the Board’s agenda and expressed hope that the Board would act on the proposals and engage in voluntary mediation to resolve their differences. He was quoted as saying “I think we’re all tired of the appearance and the reality of the board and superintendent and administration not being able to work together. I think it’s just time that we fish or cut bait. I don’t think any of us want to keep all of this bickering going. For me, it’s a way to jump-start a conversation.”
Cooper went on to say that the mediation services would be provided free of charge by professional volunteers from the local Lafayette community, and that several local mediation professionals had already stepped forward to offer their services. The lack of communication and cooperation has held up decisions and implementation of several policies that would have a great impact on the more than 31,000 children served by the school district. However, the Board initially rejected the mediation proposal, stating that specific issues had to be addressed before mediation could commence.