Walker High: What’s next with a principal on leave & many unanswered questions

WALKER — The principal at Walker High School, Jason St. Pierre, is no longer on campus and a stripped title and opportunity for a scholarship are back on the table for an honor 17-yr-old senior, but still, there are numerous questions people in the community want answered.

Jason St. Pierre is currently on a leave of absence for the remainder of the 2023-2024 school year that ends in May. Multiple sources confirm to UWK St. Pierre told Walker High staff early Monday morning on Oct. 9 that he was resigning from his position as the principal. At the end of his leave of absence, he will be retiring from the Livingston Parish School system. Sources have added that means that St. Pierre will not work in the Livingston School system in the future. Despite St. Pierre being on a leave of absence, a substitute principal is needed to fill his role at Walker High School. That position will be advertised so candidates can put their name in as potentials.

All this comes after a video of WHS senior Kaylee Timonet dancing at a private party after homecoming on Sept. 30 made it to St. Pierre. Timonet’s mother spoke to Unfiltered with Kiran last week saying she was at the party. (Watch Rachel Timonet’s interview) She told UWK she did not have any alcohol at the party, but added she would not be surprised if people did sneak in alcohol. She said she sent home any kids she suspected of being drunk and released them to their parents. She added they were not allowed into the private after-party that several people came together and paid for to host. Rachel Timonet said her daughter did not have any alcohol that night nor did the mother provide any alcohol for anyone at the venue.

The thought has come up that the alcohol at the party is the reason Timonet was called into the principal’s office because she had signed a code of conduct since she was the president of the Student Government Association (SGA.) However, Kaylee’s mother told UWK alcohol never came up in the conversation between her daughter, St. Pierre and the instructional coach Kelly Becnel. Instead, sources confirm the reason St. Pierre is no longer at the school is because he went too far by bringing up religion with Kaylee Timonet during that meeting. Alcohol was also never mentioned in St. Pierre’s apology letter.

Kaylee Timonet was called into a meeting on Oct. 3 with St. Pierre and Becnel. (Watch Kaylee’s interview) In that meeting, Kaylee, who is a 4.2 GPA student, was stripped of her role as the SGA president. Plus, St. Pierre was recommending her for a $10,000 scholarship and he revoked his recommendation. He then brought up numerous elements religiously, according to Kaylee’s mother Rachel.

“I couldn’t believe they could do something like that to a kid, a kid with a 4.2 average and Beta Club,” said the mother. “Being that the separation of church and state and that they don’t know what my faith and my beliefs are as a family and that is not for anybody to do other than my family. Also questioning her and demanding an answer if her friends follow the Lord and she’s answering, ‘I don’t know,’ she should not be questioned or spoken (to) about faith at all. It’s a public school, not a private school. He has no right to discuss any sort of religion with my child.”

An investigation was launched into St. Pierre’s actions Friday morning, Oct. 6. That Sunday, Oct. 8, St. Pierre called the Timonets asking them to meet him on a Sunday, but they refused. He issued an apology letter, an apology the Timonets said was “too little, too late.” The next morning, he resigned by taking a leave of absence through the end of the school year.

Who is Walker High’s Jason St. Pierre

With Jason St. Pierre leaving Walker High School (WHS), some are coming to his defense that one mistake should not become his legacy. St. Pierre is credited with building WHS to a powerhouse school and one of the top public schools in the state. St. Pierre has brought numerous educational opportunities to the school for the students. There’s a Neighbors Federal Credit Union to give students the opportunity to get one-on-one experience with banking. It’s one of the only schools in Livingston Parish with a hands on mechanic shop that provides certifications for students after graduation.

Walker High Jason St. Pierre

Walker also has advanced business and computer classes giving students skills they can use for jobs right out of high school (or to prepare them for college). They also have a School Based Enterprise, The Green and White Cookie Site, where principles of marketing students operate the store and learn valuable business and marketing skills. The school also has AgScience classes with a greenhouse and chicken coop to give students life skills while in high school.

Jason St. Pierre has been the principal at WHS for 16 years having taken over the job in 2007.

He took to the national stage in 2022 when he was awarded the Varsity Brands School Spirit Principal of the Year. This year, St. Pierre was the 2023 Louisiana Principal of the Year semifinalist.

Discipline for Instructional Coach Kelly Becnel

Kelly Becnel is an instructional coach at WHS and informally considered to be an assistant principal with her role. Sources say Becnel did not have much of a role in the meeting at Walker High between Kaylee, Jason St. Pierre and herself. Since all this though, a video surfaced where Becnel was dancing on school grounds to a song with inappropriate lyrics. That video was posted to social media. Sources confirm Becnel has been disciplined for a social media policy violation, but not for anything related to the ongoing incident with Kaylee.

Opponents are now questioning why Becnel was disciplined this week for a video that is from the past instead of when that video was posted. “It just adds fuel to the fire that there’s preferential treatment in Livingston Parish,” said an LPSS employee, who asked to remain anonymous fearing retaliation. “They did not just find out about that video. It was brought out publicly so they had to address it. Otherwise, it was conveniently tucked under a rug.”

Stripped scholarship opportunity

The U.S. Youth Senate Scholarship is a program where two Louisiana juniors or seniors are chosen to attend the 62nd annual U.S. Senate Youth Program (USSYP) in Washington D.C. during the week of March 2-9, 2024. The two delegates will each receive a $10,000 scholarship.

High school juniors or seniors may qualify to apply through leadership positions they hold during the 2023-2024 school year per the USSYP official criteria. All student leadership-qualifying positions are subject to the state selection administrator and will be verified and confirmed. According to USSYP, students must be actively serving in high-level elected or appointed leadership positions to qualify to apply.

In order to apply for the scholarship, the principal of the student’s school must send a letter of recommendation or reference. That’s the recommendation St. Pierre told Kaylee Timonet he would no longer endorse after the dance video.

Based on St. Pierre’s actions, Kaylee & her mother told UWK last week that Kaylee was no longer qualified as an applicant for the USSYP since she did not hold a required high-level elected position and did not receive a reference letter from her principal. The deadline for the application was on Oct. 3, which was the same day he retracted his endorsement and took away her leadership title.

But then in his apology letter, St. Pierre said he was reinstating her president title to SGA and endorsing her for the scholarship, well after the Oct. 3 deadline. This is partially why St. Pierre’s apology was not accepted by the Timonet family, which came five days after the scholarship deadline.

UWK has reached out to both Louisiana senators and the Louisiana Department of Education about Timonet’s application. It’s unclear if she will be allowed to qualify since the deadline has passed.

Livingston School Board furious why they’re left in the dark

School board members Jeffery Cox and Katelyn Lockhart Cockerham represent the Walker High area. Ideally, UWK is told the way the process works for Livingston Parish school board members is when an issue arises with a school in a specific board member’s district, they are advised. In the current situation however, it’s unclear if Cox and Cockerham knew anything since it pertained to Walker High School.

Given the magnitude of the incident and the fact that it made national headlines, those familiar with the process say all school board members should have been advised of what was happening at Walker High School and with Jason St. Pierre, not just Cox and Cockerham.

School Board Member Kellee Hennesey Dickerson, who represents the Live Oak district, said the situation has been handled poorly.

“I was kind of surprised that it took this long for something to happen,” she said. “I read the post principal St. Pierre made over the weekend. Then I saw a response on social media from the parent and the child, and they said it was a total contradiction. I have yet to be told as a board member of any of it by the
superintendent, and I find this appalling.”

Dickerson said she has been pushing for an emergency school board meeting but has been unsuccessful.

“I find the whole thing ridiculous because we haven’t been told anything as a school board,” she said. “The superintendent hasn’t reached out, or at least hasn’t reached out to me. I haven’t been privy to
anything. There’s so much that’s going on on social media, to all the media, and it’s made national news and now I’m hearing even international news. It’s gone as far as Great Britain. I think that this is insane that the board, the governing body of the whole organization, is not informed of this. This is
totally unacceptable. It’s ridiculous for an honor student to be treated this way.”

UWK has contacted Jeffery Cox and Katelyn Lockhart Cockerham multiple times. They have not returned phone calls as of this report.

“The public deserves transparency and they deserve accountability,” Dickerson stated. “Everybody has a right to know what the next steps are going to be. I’m very fed up with the whole situation.”

Board’s role in the process

The situation at Walker High has brought many in the community to question what a school board member’s role is in certain matters.

According to the board policy, no board member has administrative responsibilities as it pertains to the
schools. The board member’s main jobs are to make policies and hire a superintendent.

That’s because in 2012, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 1 and stripped school board members of many of their roles. School hires now come down mainly to the superintendent.

The Board policy states the Livingston Parish School Board delegates the authority and responsibility for administration of the school system to the Superintendent.

The execution of all decisions made by the board concerning the internal operation of the school system shall be delegated to the Superintendent. The Superintendent is the chief executive officer and educational advisor of the school board.

While retaining ultimate responsibility, the Superintendent is authorized to delegate
certain duties to other members of his/her administrative staff. This includes, as appropriate, any administrative or supervisory employee.

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on any new developments.

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