Jefferson Parish Black Teachers’ Group Opposes White Gretna Principal

Jenny Hurwitz, Times-Picayune, May 5, 2009

A coalition of Jefferson Parish’s black educators has come out against the controversial decision to select Christine Templet, who is white [and the wife of state Rep. Ricky Templet, R-Gretna], as the new principal of Thomas Jefferson High School in Gretna, claiming the appointment excluded eligible African-American administrators who might be interested in the post.

In a Monday letter to Superintendent Diane Roussel, members of the Jefferson Alliance of Black School Educators argued that the district’s current process for selecting principals could be construed as discriminatory, because it had precluded qualified, under-represented African-American candidates from applying for the position at the helm of the West Bank’s only magnet high school.

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However, district officials contend that Roussel has the sole discretion to make administrative appointments, a power granted by the district’s desegregation order and affirmed by the School Board.

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The desegregation order, which was approved by a federal judge last May, requires that principals be chosen by the superintendent in a manner consistent with board policy. Previously, the board required the superintendent to use committee input and a scoring rubric as part of the process to fill administrative vacancies.

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Meanwhile, members of JABSE noted that no black administrator has been appointed principal at any of the district’s six academic magnets. They also questioned Roussel’s decision to appoint a person with no school-based experience, as opposed to an African-American principal in the district “with proven academic success.”

In her former position as special programs coordinator under the district’s special education department, Templet was responsible for overseeing special education services for students with disabilities in grades three to five. Prior to that, she worked as an educational consultant to the school system, reporting to the director of special education.

Board member Ray St. Pierre cited Roussel’s decision to appoint Sharon Meggs-Hamilton as vice principal at Thomas Jefferson as proof that the superintendent is conscious of the demands of the desegregation order. Meggs-Hamilton, who is vice principal at Helen Cox High School in Harvey, is black.

Still, Holmes [Janine Holmes, union president,] emphasized the importance of placing more African-Americans in the top post, so it reflects school and parish demographics more accurately. While black candidates should also be considered for vice principal jobs, “the principal of the school is, of course, the leader, ” she said.

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