Erik Willis in running for new athletic post

Deidre Cruse

The Iberville Parish School Board Monday night approved a job description for the new position of district athletic coordinator.

Erik Willis, a well-known high school coach in the area and brother of School Board Member Brian S. Willis of Plaquemine, is expected to be among the applicants for the position, which reportedly will include teaching and coaching duties at Plaquemine High School.

The position will be advertised for two weeks at parish schools and on the School Board website, according to Janet Marionneaux, executive director of curriculum and instruction.

In anticipation of Erik Willis’ applying for the job, Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. has asked the Louisiana Board of Ethics for an advisory opinion on whether the board can appoint the brother of a board member.

The item is on the ethics board’s agenda for today (Thursday).

“We’re doing it right,” said Brian Willis, who said he was prepared to step down for the sake of the children if it meant his brother could get the job. Willis abstained from voting on the personnel committee report in which the new position was approved.

Kathleen Allen, attorney for the ethics board, said state law continues to exempt certified school personnel from the nepotism rule.

Brian Willis said his brother is a certified teacher, a qualification called for in the job description for the position.

Cancienne said he hoped to have the ethics advisory opinion before he presents a hiring recommendation to the School Board at its January 12 meeting.

Board Member Darlene Ourso of White Castle objected to the salary level for the job, at 1.4 times the amount of money the board pays a principal with similar education and years of experience.

“I think the pay scale for the athletic director is too high,” she said before the vote, “but other than that everything is fine.”

The job description calls for the district athletic coordinator to hold a teaching certificate and to have at least five years of experience as a high school athletic director or coach.

The coordinator will report both to the parish supervisor of athletics (currently John Bueche) and to the principal of the school at which the coordinator coaches and teaches.

Other duties of the coordinator include maintaining the parish’s athletic handbook and coaching contracts, conducting annual surveys of the status of athletic facilities, assisting with the oversight of the school district’s compliance with Louisiana High School Athletic Association rules, investigate violations of those rules and monitoring the drug testing program for athletes.

Willis is a graduate of Plaquemine High and was a standout tight/defensive end in the mid-80s for Coach Don Jones. He went on to play football and graduated from Nicholls State. He coached at Riverside Academy before moving to St. John High in Plaquemine as an assistant coach in the early 1990s. He became the head football coach at SJHS and led the 1996 gridiron team to state runner-up honors. Willis left coaching for a brief period of time and returned to St. John and resumed head coaching duties. He led another SJHS team to the state semifinals in 2005 and then the 2006 club to state runner-up honors. He returned to private business, but took the head coaching job at Brusly High in January 2008. He led the Brusly team to a 5-4 record and a state playoff berth last month.

The board approved the Personnel Committee recommendations without objections. Board Member Stanley Washington of Maringouin was the only member absent from the meeting.