St. Landry Parish School Board selects Jenkins as superintendent (update)

A forum was held for the three candidates for St. Landry Parish school superintendent on Monday at the Delta Grand Theatre in Opelousas. From left are candidates Francis Touchet Jr., Patrick Jenkins and Dr. James Gray; and Bill Rodier, executive director of St. Landry Economic Development. Top School Board members expect one of the three will be selected superintendent a Wednesday meeting. (Photo by Harlan Kirgan)

By Harlan Kirgan Editor

The St. Landry Parish School Board elected Patrick Jenkins as its next superintendent at a special meeting Wednesday.
Jenkins was selected on a 7-6 vote over Francis Touchet Jr.
Raymond Cassimere, board president, and Randy Wagley, board vice president, had expected the selection to be made after a final round of interviews at the meeting scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The final three candidates were Dr. James Gray, Jenkins and Touchet.
Thy were selected from a field of 10 candidates initially interviewed.
The superintendent’s job became open when the board decided not to renew Superintendent Edward Brown’s contract, which expires Dec. 31. The advertised pay was from $128,000 to $160,000 a year.
On Monday, the applicants participated in a community forum presented by the St. Landry Chamber of Commerce and Vision St. Landry, both business groups.
The 90-minute forum was held at the Delta Grand Theatre in Opelousas.
Jenkins is principal of Copper Mill Elementary in the Zachary Community School District. He has a master of education degree in administration and supervision from Southern University.
Jenkins, an Opelousas native, retired as a major after 25 years in the National Guard, then went into education.
Gray is the director for school leadership in the Vermilion Parish School District, where he has been in that role since 2012. He served as Westgate High School principal for eight years and the principal at Anderson Middle School in New Iberia for three years.
Gray has a doctorate of education in educational leadership from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Gray, also an Opelousas native, noted his experience in turning around Westgate High School.
Touchet is a network leader in the Louisiana Department of Education Touchet served as the principal of Erath High School in Vermilion Parish for five years prior to his job with the state.
He earned a master’s in education from McNeese State University.
Touchet has worked the past 14 months in St. Landry Parish in his state education department job.
The candidates were given three minutes to summarize themselves at the Delta Grand Theatre forum.
Gray said, “I have hands on experience extensively with at-risk populations. I have hands on experience extensively with higher performing schools. I developed plans of action, strategic principles to give them support necessary for them to move forward.”
Gray said, “My biggest strength is being able to identify personnel and move them to where they need to be.”
Gray also indicated he is ready to remove personnel who are not right for the school system.
“If you are not right for kids or you are not doing what is in the best interest of the district then maybe this may not be the place for you. I try to establish what I like to deem a culture of learning, which means the superintendent has to be the lead learner of everybody in the organization.”
Touchet said in his summary, “The reason why I think I’m the best candidate for this position is because I have a passion. I have a passion for the kids of St. Landry. I have the experience working with some of the top schools in the state. I have worked with prinicpals and teachers with our lowest-performing students and I have seen regardless of where they come from they can achieve and they can move forward.”
Touchet said he has worked with superintendents, district and school staff in 21 school districts. “I have seen what has worked.”
Touchet pointed out he has worked for the past 14 months in St. Landry Parish schools and knows the plan that must be implemented.
“I will be very transparent with our board. I will be a superintendent that will work with everyone of those board members and communicate to them exactly what is happening with our finances, what is happening with their schools within their district. Communicating with the community. Making sure that communications is happening monthly. Making sure we are talking about the good things that are happening, but being honest with ourselves about the struggles we have.”
Touchet said he will divide the parish school system in zones and assign Central Office staff to those zones.
Jenkins said, “I’m a product of St. Landry Parish. I’ve had the opportunity to gain 30 years of experience throughout the world. I’ve traveled extensively throughout the world. I’ve had an opportunity to work in blue ribbon schools. I’ve had an opportunity to work in top five schools. I’ve had an opportunity to to work in the number one school district in the state. In adddition, I’ve had an opportunity to work in those schools that were not so great. But those are experiences I can provide to St. Landry Parish.”
Jenkins said he has worked with pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade as principal, teacher and district administrator.
Jenkins said he would have a 100-day plan if hired and develop a five-year strategic plan with the board, staff and public.
The School Board’s Wednesday meeting will be held at the district’s Resource Center, 1013 East Creswell Lane, Opelousas.

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