School board chooses new leadership in aftermath of denying superintendent contract

Carla Powell-Lewis

BATON ROUGE — Following roughly an hour of testy dialogue and debate, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board changed leaders Thursday.

Thursday’s meeting stems from the fallout of the board’s decision not to renew superintendent Sito Narcisse’s contract last month.

The board voted 8-0 with one member abstaining to promote Carla Powell-Lewis to the board president, and with a 5-4 vote, Patrick Martin edged Shashonnie Steward for vice president. Steward abstained from the vote for president.

Martin and Powell-Lewis voted against renewing Narcisse’s contract.

Dadrius Lanus

Dadrius Lanus, who served as board president for the last year and one of Narcisse’s supporters on the board, was nominated Thursday to serve a second year as board president. Lanus had other plans. He withdrew his name from consideration before saying Thursday’s events were already pre-determined.

“The vote was already decided before we came here,” he said. “That’s not right on behalf of our community. This has been going on for quite some time.”

Lanus attributed this to unnamed outside groups.

“Tonight’s vote was decided long before I came here,” Lanus said. “This has been going on for quite some time. At the last board meeting, my character was called into place because someone said meetings were not held in terms of the superintendent’s contract. At that time, I said it was not right, and those were emphatic lies.”

He blamed unnamed outside groups for the result.

“There was already a concrete plan to sow chaos and division on this board,” he said. Lanus lost points with some board members after he led the negotiations that resulted in a proposed new, four-year contract for Narcisse that would result in a $55,000 pay raise and would have made Narcisse the highest-paid school superintendent in Louisiana.

Powell-Lewis said Thursday that the last month had been tough for her after voting against the contract renewal.

“I’ve shared with my family that this role has been more intense than child labor,” she said. “In December, I casted a vote because I felt strongly about the lack of leadership that we have had in the district. I stated then that there was a level of chaos. My goal and reasoning for running for president was so that we could see levels of transparency.”

She also stated that she has been subject to attacks from people using emails with fake names.

Here’s how the board members’ vice president vote went:

  • For Martin: Mark Bellue, Emily Chatelain, Cliff Lewis, Patrick Martin V and Nathan Rust.
  • For Steward: Mike Gaudet, Lanus, Powell-Lewis and Steward.

Lanus defended himself against criticism that didn’t keep the board aware of the details of Narcisse’s contract. That prompted a response from Rust, who said the two met but talked about other issues related to the superintendent’s contract.

Gaudet said he was disappointed in some of the conversations held Thursday.

“Stop listening to all the politics,” he said. “Start thinking a lot more about the kids. I hope in a couple of months, I can come to these board meetings and not be embarrassed by what I’m seeing.”

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