Terrebonne School Board Special Meeting Recap
At the Terrebonne Parish School Board special meeting last night, after a nearly 40-minute executive session and two failed substitute motions, the Terrebonne Parish School Board approved extending Superintendent Philip Martin’s contract for 18 months.
The extension makes Martin, whose contract was set to expire this December, superintendent until June 30, 2022, and keeps his yearly salary at $185,000.
A substitute motion to extend Martin’s contract for six months was proposed by board member Matthew Ford.
Ford later added, before voting against the failed two-year extension, that he was voting on behalf of his constituents, and he threw his own opinion out the window. He went on to say he received one text message of support for Martin and 50-60 other messages that were in opposition.
Ford’s substitute motion to extend by six months failed to get a second.
Proposed by board member Michael LaGarde, the other substitute motion was to extend the superintendent’s contract for two years.
LaGarde said 18 months was not long enough if the school board decides to initiate a national search for new superintendent candidates, and, according to LaGarde, the two years would give Martin an opportunity to get the district out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although he didn’t say any names, LaGarde said some of Martin’s staff members need to be dismissed. LaGarde, however, did not say Martin himself was doing a bad job.
In regard to a national search, board member Gregory Harding highlighted the challenges he’s seen with it: bringing in someone young who would stay a few years and leave, an older person looking for a position that’s more relaxed at the end of their career or a person who will ask for a large sum of money.
Martin is not perfect, Harding said, but he can improve and get better. Before noting several accomplishments since Martin has taken over, such as the renewal of the 5.41 millage, pay raises for teachers and building improvements, among others, Harding also said he has not received one call opposing Martin.
School Board President Debi Benoit said Martin is easy to work with and addresses the issues that are faced in the district, but she was against the two-year contract extension because it ends on December 31, the middle of the school year.
“I think it’s a logical thing to stop a contract on the fiscal year-end, June 30th,” she continued. “A new superintendent, whenever that would be, could take over at the beginning of the fiscal year and still have a month or so to plan how their vision is for the next school year.”
LaGarde’s substitute motion to extend by two years was outvoted 5-4. LaGarde, along with other board members Harding, Stacy Solet and MayBelle Trahan, voted for it. All other board members opposed it.
Two members of the public spoke at the special meeting.
Local activist and concerned parent Wanda Triggs, who also expressed opposition to the executive session, said a contract extension for Martin is not what Terrebonne Parish needs.
“We need to move forward and move away from this dark era that’s going on,” she continued. “We want a parish superintendent that reflects that he is concerned about all of the students of this parish.”
Jacqueline Spencer, who described herself as a Terrebonne Parish advocate, agreed with LaGarde for the two-year extension.
“Whoever gets in Mr. Martin’s seat, we want to make sure that that person is educated, reliable and accountable for such a position,” she said, before adding that the parish also needs someone that’s going to make a change and do what’s in the best interests of their constituents.
Spencer noted that she loves her former principal, who is Martin, but she said the community is concerned and wants to be more involved in the process. She also called for the superintendent and the board to “to do what’s right for Terrebonne Parish,” provide support and move forward together with the community.
The votes for the 18-month contract extension came in as follows:
After the decision, Martin gave remarks.
“It is indeed a privilege and a pleasure to continue working and serving the children of Terrebonne Parish and working for the school board,” he said. “…I take that as a sacred calling and am looking forward to continuing the work that the district has been doing.”