School Board votes to terminate counselor

Deidre Cruse

The Iberville Parish School Board last week voted 10-1 to find North Iberville High School guidance counselor Myrtle Wade guilty of four of five charges of willful neglect of duty, and then to terminate her employment with the local school system.

After some 15 hours of testimony at the Wade tenure hearing last week, the board took action after 1 a.m. Friday. Wade, who has been on leave with pay since the start of school, was fired immediately.

She will have a year in which she can appeal her dismissal to the 18th Judicial District Court.

Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. conducted an investigation and brought the charges against Wade, a 17-year employee of the school system, after he received complaints, including one in a letter from an attorney, that May graduates of North Iberville had been unable to gain

admission to Southern University based on the courses they took at the local high school.

In his testimony, Dr. Cancienne said the students should have had the opportunity to continue their education, “but they were misguided.”

In the written charge against her, Wade was accused for failing to inform students and their parents of the high school coursework required of students who planned to seek admission to four-year colleges.

Wade’s attorney, Edmond Jordan of Brusly, tried to show that the courses the students took met the criteria for admission to Southern, and that their ACT scores or other factors might have led to their being denied admission.

In 10-1 votes – with only Board Member Dorothy R. Sansoni of Plaquemine voting no – the school board agreed with Cancienne on that and three other charges:

-- That Wade had failed to obtain parents’ signatures on their children’s five-year education plans, as required by state law and school board policies.

-- That she did not conduct meetings with parents and students on TOPS scholarship requirements and the requirements for student admission into post-secondary schools.

-- That she failed to post summer school and Louisiana Video School grades in a timely manner as she was required to do.

In a 5-6 vote, the board rejected a fifth charge that Wade failed to complete a master schedule of classes for the 2008-09 school year.

Voting to find her guilty on the charge were board members Michael Hebert Jr., Brian S. Willis and Glyna Kelley, all of Plaquemine; Melvin Lodge of St. Gabriel, and David Worm Daigle of Grosse Tete.

Voting to find her not guilty were Yolanda Laws and Paul Distefano, both of Plaquemine; Darlene Ourso of White Castle; Stanley Washington of Maringouin, and Freddie “Sam” Molden of Bayou Goula.

Absent from the vote were members Nancy T. Broussard of St. Gabriel, Albertha Hasten of White Castle and Tom Delahaye and Michael “Chief” Barbee, both of Plaquemine.

In a final 10-1 vote, with Sansoni objecting, the board voted to follow Cancienne’s recommendation to fire Wade.

Cancienne said afterwards the board had clearly demonstrated it would demand accountability.

The board met to hear testimony in the case from 6 p.m. until midnight Monday, October 20, and from 5 p.m. until after 1 a.m. last Thursday.

Baton Rouge attorneys Bob Hammonds and Patrick Joseph represented the School Board at the hearing.

The board has scheduled a November 3 tenure hearing for East Iberville Assistant Principal Willie Zanders.