Superintendent Jerome Puyau showed up to work last week with tape on his mouth after the school board instructed him not to speak to school employees while on administrative leave. This week he removed the tape and went to work, getting ready for a new school year.
Puyau continues to show up to work
Vermilion Parish School Superintendent Jerome Puyau went to work as usual this week despite how the Vermilion Parish School Board voted last week.
A week ago the School Board placed Superintendent Jerome Puyau on administrative leave to investigate the superintendent. Thus far, Puyau has not spent a day at home since he has been placed on paid leave. Instead, Puyau showed up for work Friday morning and continues to show up for work.
He has worked six days since being placed on administrative leave.
Puyau said the reason he is going to work is because, according to Puyau, the school board does not have the right to put him on administrative leave. The board can only hire him or fire him.
Last Friday, Puyau placed tape over his mouth when he arrived at the central office. He put the tape over his mouth because the school board told him he was not allowed to talk to school employees while on leave. So, he placed tape over his mouth, but he carried a note pad as a way to communicate with co-workers.
According to Superintendent Puyau, “I live in the United States of America and believe in our Constitution and the rights that everyone afforded including the freedom of speech. The resolution that board member Kibbie Pillette read at the July 25, 2019 Special Board Meeting violated my rights by stating, ‘The superintendent cannot speak to anyone...’”
Puyau explained why he wore the blue tape.
“The blue tape was a demonstration of my rights as a U.S. citizen being violated. Furthermore, wearing the blue tape was another form of Freedom of Speech, and I will continue to uphold the Board policies and State Laws that guide me to make the right decisions for our students. All students!”
Puyau spent this week getting ready for the start of another year of school. He attended in-service for teachers, support workers, and bus drivers.
Teachers arrived at school this past Monday and students will begin on Aug. 8.
The Meridional asked School Board President Laura LeBeouf about Puyau going to work despite the 4-3 vote to put him on leave.
LeBeouf referred the question to school board attorney Bob Hammonds in Baton Rouge. The Meridional placed a phone call into Hammonds on Wednesday, and as of press time on Thursday, he had not returned the phone call.
In the meantime, school employees are preparing for the start of school. Puyau was busy talking up the school system.
“Do not let the politics interfere with our students and our teachers,” said Puyau in a television interview earlier in the week. “Our students are performing higher in grade three through eight, and nine through 12 in every subject, district-wide. Better than the state of Louisiana.
“These phenomenal numbers are not because of me, but I’m part of a team working as one which we call ‘Our Vermilion.”
Here are the items the School Board is going to investigate Puyau for:
• Failing to put items on Board agendas as requested by Board members, in violation of Board policy and District Court orders
• Failing to acknowledge and implement Board action on May 30, 2019 to eliminate the position of Risk Manager/Legal Counsel, effective that date
• Failing to acknowledge and implement Board action on May 30, 2019 to name Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice as Board General Counsel and to direct that all legal matters concerning school system be referred to that firm for handling, effective that date
• Hiring administrative personnel who do not meet the qualifications for the position outlined in Board-approved job description
• Authorizing the payment of private attorneys’ fees with Board funds without the knowledge or approval of the Board.
As of Thursday, it is unknown if the investigation has begun on Puyau.
Puyau said, “I think the Board should investigate any and all complaints including when they involve me. The investigation can continue without me on paid leave so we can begin our school year with the kids first.”