Former Zachary coach hired for PHS, coordinator’s job

Deidre Cruse

The Iberville Parish School Board on Monday voted 11-4 to hire former Zachary High School head football coach Robert Howell as district athletic coordinator and coach at Plaquemine High School.

Howell is slated to start work today (Thursday) at a salary of $80,582 a year.

Erik Willis, the man who was to have had the coordinator/coach’s job, is still teaching at Plaquemine High.

Willis left his coaching job at Brusly High School to take the job.  When it came time for the vote at last month’s meeting, however, Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. recommended hiring Willis as a teacher and coach at PHS, a lower paying job without the duties of athletic coordinator.

Willis’ brother, School Board Member Brian S. Willis of Plaquemine, said he wanted to avoid any potential issues of nepotism. Once hired on those terms, Erik Willis said he would leave at the end of this school year.

Board President Melvin Lodge of St. Gabriel cut Board Member Dorothy R. Sansoni of Plaquemine off as she tried to question why Howell was recommended over White Castle Football Coach Ferante Dominique.

Dominique, who had applied for the coordinator/coach position, the first time, had submitted a new application.

“Ferante Dominique didn’t meet those criteria, and we’re not going to discuss that,” Lodge told Sansoni when she tried to raise the issue.

Sansoni questioned why Dominique was not given a second interview with the new round of applicants.

The committee asked the same questions as in the prior interview, so Dominique and another applicant were not interviewed a second time, Cancienne said.

Before the meeting, Sansoni distributed copies of an article from The Advocate, which reported that Howell had been “relieved of his coaching duties” at Zachary, though he remained as a teacher there.

Lodge banged his gavel.

“It’s over with,” he said.

Board Member Tom Delahaye of Plaquemine called for the question.

“No more discussion,” asked Board Member Stanley Washington of Maringouin. “I don’t have the right?”

Board Member Nancy T. Broussard of St. Gabriel said it would take a two-thirds vote of the board to cut off discussion.

Delahaye withdrew his motion in deference to Washington.

Washington said if Plaquemine High needed a head football coach, the board should hire one, but objected to stationing the district athletic coordinator there.

“This is not going to help the district as a whole,” he said, suggesting that Howell’s duties at Plaquemine would keep him from visiting the parish’s three other high schools.

“This is a strong move for more accountability,” Cancienne said, as he assured Washington that Howell would go out to the other schools.

Sansoni and Washington voted against hiring Howell, as did board members Albertha Hasten of White Castle and Freddie “Sam” Molden of Bayou Goula.

The first item on the board’s agenda was Hasten’s proposal to reorganize the board, or elect new officers. Lodge said the item was made by mistake, and Hasten concurred that she wanted it withdrawn.

Later in the meeting, Broussard proposed a policy change that could have put the athletic coordinator’s job in line with those of high school assistant principals and assistant directors. She did not propose for the policy to be retroactive.

If the policy were in effect, Howell would make $7,000 a year less.