Vermilion Parish School superintendent gets oral evaluations from school board member

School superintendent Jerome Puyau sits in front of the school board members at Monday's meeting.

For maybe the first time in the history of the Vermilion Parish School Board, a superintendent was given an oral evaluation by school board members in public.
Jerome Puyau, who has been the school superintendent for the last 3 1/2 years, elected to have his oral review in public instead of behind closed doors.
Puyau sat at a separate table in front of the school board members and listened to the comments from board members.
Behind Puyau sat his wife and daughter, along with two rooms full of supporters, who came to listen.
Four school board members gave negative comments of Puyau’s performance, while three praised him.
When the board were done commenting, the meeting ended. In the near future, the school board will meet again and go over their submitted written reviews of the superintendent. After that, the school board is expected to vote on either renewing or not renewing Puyau’s contract.
Five votes are needed to either renew or not renew his contract.
School board members Kibbie Pillette (Abbeville district), Luddy Herpin (Kaplan district), Sara Duplechain (Erath district) and Laura LeBeouf (Kaplan district) did not have anything positive to say about Puyau.
Here are a few comments each of them said during their oral review.
Duplechain said one of her biggest problems with the superintendent is how he handle school employees.
“I have had numerous employees approach me by the cooler section at Champagne’s, a parent meeting, or a school function for my children telling me not to talk to them anymore or stay far away from them. They told me not to make eye contact with them because they will be punished.
“This is not a safe environment for our employees.”
Herpin, a long time teacher and principal in Vermilion Parish, pointed out things he had a problem with Puyau. He have five reasons as to why he plans not to give Puyau a positive rating.
He ended his oral evaluation with this statement.
“Morel is at an all time low,” Herpin said. “I was told not stay after a principal’s meeting and not to go to schools and talk to the principals. If I am going to do a good job, the job that I was hired for, I need to talk to the personnel. People were told not to talk to the school board members. They were told!”
Kibbie Pillette is another board member who will not give Puyau a positive review based on his oral evaluation.
“Look around the room tonight,” Pillette said. “This was supposed to be an evaluation of the superintendent. Why are these people here? It is another form of the intimidation that the superintendent uses. Principals have been harassed to come to the meeting. Are they being evaluated? No. The superintendent is. What makes me so angry is that in my 25 years I have never seen a superintendent use the type of tactics that our superintendent is using. We have people in this system who are working under threats.”
Laura LeBeouf is another school board member who also has no plans to give Puyau a positive evaluation. She pointed out that since Puyau has been the superintendent, the school system has jumped from $51 million in salaries to $53 million in salaries. LeBeouf said when Puyau arrived, the school system was bringing in $93 million. Today, it is down to $82 million, which is due to the drop in oil and gas revenue, along with the reduction of sales tax.
“We have declined in revenue by $11 million,” said LeBeouf. “In 2013, our expenditures were $92 million. In 2015, our expenditures were $97 million. We overspent $5 million. The point is, if we are not taking in $11 million and overspent $5 million, this is called being fiscally irresponsible.
“Times are hard. You have to cut back on things.”
There were three school board members who gave Puyau positive evaluations.
Stacy Landry said in his district, morel is high and teachers are happy and he has seen improvements.
“I have no complaints. I have been very satisfied with your work,” said Landry.
Chris Gautreaux said he speaks to his principals in his district and does visit schools every now and then. He admits he does not micromanage his district because that is what school personnel are hired to do.
“When my principals are not happy, they call me and then I give them to the superintendent,” Gautreaux said. “The business is the kids. That is the most important thing in this system - the kids.”
Gautreaux closed by saying, “Jerome, you and your staff keep up the good work. The school scores will come out and show how well we do. It’s not just Jerome. It is everyone who does well. It’s all one team.”
School Board member Anthony Fontana has worked under four superintendents. He pointed out that Puyau was the best. “When we hired him, everything the superintendent told us that he wanted to do, he put that in his contract, we have exceeded. No one has ever complained to me about the superintendent. People ask me why are we trying to get rid of the superintendent. Our district is one of the best in the state.”
New school board member Chris Hebert looked at Puyau and said, “Keep doing what you are doing, because I do not know all of the facts.”

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