Parish superintendent retires, interim named

Published 12:06am Friday, May 25, 2012

VIDALIA — It wasn’t the motion to accept her retirement that made superintendent Loretta Blankenstein tear up.

It was being surrounding by people she’s worked with for 24 years in the Concordia Parish School district that brought on the waterworks Thursday evening at a special school board meeting.

“I told all these people, and myself, that I wouldn’t cry tonight, but that didn’t happen,” Blankenstein said. “It’s been a pleasure to work with all these people as well as parents and community members.

“Those of you who know me know that the children are the love of my life.”

And despite an attempted motion from board member Fred Butcher to table the item until 2014, Blankenstein’s retirement, which is effective June 30, was accepted and approved by the board.

“On behalf of the board, we appreciate the job that you’ve done, and good luck to you in the future,” board President Gary Parnham said.

As board and audience members stood to applaud, Blankenstein continued to fight back tears.

“I’m excited about my future and the future of Concordia Parish,” Blankenstein said. “It’s just been an emotional night all around.”

But as Blankenstein closed one door behind her, she opened another door for Director of Academic Programs Paul Nelson who was named interim superintendent.

“There’s a great sense of responsibility and obligation that comes with this position, but I’m definitely excited about the opportunity,” Nelson said after the meeting. “We have a great staff and students in Concordia Parish and there’s always plenty of work to be done.”

Nelson said the added responsibility is something he’s dealt with in the past, when he was named interim superintendent in 2009 while Blankenstein was on maternity leave.

“I’ve had this experience before, so it’s not anything new, but she’s still going to be here for a while, and we’ll be working side by side,” Nelson said. “We just have to put our shoulders down and get to work.”

The board approved to begin advertising for the superintendent position today, with hopes of naming a new superintendent at the next meeting on June 14.

Nelson said he was interested in the position and would consider applying once applications are available.

“I’ll have to wait and see how this whole process unfolds, but I’m definitely interested in the position,” Nelson said. “I’m invested in this community, not only as a school board employee, but also as a parent of children who are in the school system.”

Nelson was appointed director of academic programs in 2006 after serving as principal at Vidalia Junior High School for two years.

The board will have two weeks to advertise the position before interviewing candidates.