St. Mary Superintendent Donald Aguillard withdrew this morning from the race for Lafayette Parish superintendent.
After making the cut to the final three candidates one week ago, Aguillard announced his decision to stay in St. Mary Parish to the local media via email today.
“After solemn reflection, I determined that continuing the work in this district more closely aligns to my personal career goals of leading schools to realizing their academic potential. We started this undertaking in St. Mary seven years ago, and I am highly invested in continuing on the path to make this district a leader of educational growth in Louisiana. We have built a strong team of educated professionals, and I have every confidence in our ability to succeed in attaining a significantly higher district performance score.
“I sincerely appreciate the candid deliberation offered by the Lafayette school district and wish them the best as they continue the selection process. Making this decision has rejuvenated my commitment to the St. Mary community to ensure that we are providing students with all the tools necessary to succeed in an ever-changing and highly competitive society.”
Aguillard has maintained, since placing his name in the running, that the move was not related to any dissatisfaction with his current position in St. Mary Parish, but rather it was a personal decision.
He said he considered the opening as an opportunity to return to Lafayette Parish, which both he and his wife consider home. Aguillard spent 28 years in Lafayette Parish before his selection as St. Mary superintendent in 2004.
St. Mary School Board President Roland Verret said he was “a bit surprised that (Aguillard) withdrew after he made the final three, because we believed he had a legitimate chance to be their leader.”
However, Verret expressed pleasure with Aguillard’s decision to stay in St. Mary Parish.
“We’re happy he chose to honor his contract with the board,” he said, noting that Aguillard received a three-year contract extension earlier this year.
He also noted that many board members are traveling this week for the Thanksgiving holidays and may be delayed in hearing of this news but was sure they would be pleased to learn about it.
In evaluating his decision to remain in St. Mary, Aguillard added “the interview process has been a rewarding and enlightening experience, and I remain honored to be a member of the top three candidates for the position.”
Aguillard was chosen — along with Walter Gonsoulin, an assistant superintendent for the Starkville, Miss., School District and Pat Cooper, the CEO/President of Early Childhood and Family Learning Foundation in New Orleans — by board vote with each of the nine-member Lafayette board choosing his or her top three candidates Nov. 15.
Gonsoulin was once again the top vote-getter with seven of nine board members voting in his favor. In the first round of voting, when the board whittled the field down from 26 to 10, Gonsoulin was the only candidate to receive unanimous favor — at that time eight votes.
Cooper had six votes Tuesday night, the same number received in the first round of voting.
Aguillard was tied with longtime Lafayette Parish employee Katherine “Katie” Landry after the votes were tallied Tuesday night with each receiving five votes. In the tie breaker, Aguillard received seven votes to Landry’s two, granting him the final spot in the finals.
While Aguillard was considered the front runner in the race when he entered, Gonsoulin has since taken over that position with his close ties to the area and top vote tallies.
“Throughout the last several weeks, the St. Mary community has graciously offered support, while strongly expressing their desire for me to remain as superintendent,” Aguillard said today. “I have enjoyed numerous conversations with both staff and board members, reflecting on the many academic successes we achieved together and planning for the future."