School board returns assistant principal to classroom teaching

Deidre Cruse

The Iberville Parish School Board voted 13-0 last week to remove Willie Zanders as assistant principal at East Iberville Elementary School and return him to work as a classroom teacher, his last tenured position.

With the vote, the board approved the recommendation of Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. after holding an administrative hearing on four charges against Zanders.

In a series of votes, the board found Zanders guilty of inefficiency and failure to fulfill the terms of his contract – and, in one instance, of incompetence – in his handling of his job. Board members Paul Distefano of Plaquemine and Nancy T. Broussard of St. Gabriel were absent from the meeting.

In the first charge, which involved the allegation of incompetency, Zanders was accused of specific instances of poor dealings with school employees.

According to the written complaint against him:

Zanders had been placed on a Level I Professional Assistance Schedule for in December 2006 “failure to act professionally, failure to communicate effectively and failure to follow school board policy.” In June 2007, East Iberville Principal Delores Thibodaux rated his communication with school employees and his behavior with staff, parents and his immediate supervisor as “unsatisfactory,” but he remained in his position pending quarterly reviews of his performance.

After five additional complaints during the 2007—08 school year, Thibodaux recommended he be removed as assistant principal.

The second charge was based on a compliant from the mother of an East Iberville school boy and another woman who found Zanders’ comments about the boy’s attractiveness inappropriate.

“Contract termination charges have not previously been brought against Mr. Zanders, although he [has] been counseled on many occasions about the problems forming the basis of this charge,” was the comment after the first two charges.

In the third charge, of falsifying leave documents, Zanders was accused of signing a request for leave because of illness when he actually appeared as a defendant in a criminal case in the 10th Judicial District.

In the fourth charge, Zanders was accused of failing to complete two of four tasks that Thibodaux assigned to him in writing. He developed a checklist for handling daily student discipline and attended a conference, “Managing Emotions Under Pressure,” but failed to maintain a journal reflecting positive actions he learned from conference and failed to develop a plan on how he would communicate effectively with Thibodaux, the school staff and parents.