Nelson to lead district as superintendent

Published 12:19 am Friday, July 13, 2012

VIDALIA — Paul Nelson was unanimously appointed Concordia Parish School district superintendent Thursday at the school board’s regular monthly meeting.

But with the first day of school less than a month away and several administrative positions to fill, Nelson said he had plenty of other things on his mind after the vote.

“It really just kind of washed over me after they did the vote,” Nelson said after a school board meeting Thursday. “It hasn’t really hit me yet, but it’s a tremendous honor, and I appreciate the board’s support.”

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The nine-member Concordia Parish School Board unanimously approved Nelson’s appointment. He was one of three candidates that applied for the position, but was the only candidate to interview. The two other applicants did not meet all the criteria listed for the position.

Former superintendent Loretta Blankenstein announced her retirement in May, after 24 years in the Concordia Parish School District. Nelson took over as interim on June 30, Blankenstein’s last day.

And with several other items on the agenda, Nelson continued the meeting with little to no pause.

“I thought I was going to say something after the vote, but then I just got caught up with the rest of the meeting,” Nelson said. “I wish I could have told the board and the audience, that I appreciate their support and they won’t find a greater defender or advocate of Concordia Parish students or employees than myself.

“With so many cuts and other things coming from the state level, I won’t just roll over without giving a response.”

Nelson previously served as director of academic programs for six years and also served as principal at Vidalia Junior High School, Vidalia Lower Elementary and assistant principal at VJHS.

With more than 19 years of experience under his belt, Nelson said he will continue to serve the people of Concordia Parish.

“There are a lot of kids, parents and grandparents that count on us to give their students a good education, so we have to hit the ground running to keep that going,” Nelson said. “We have a good core group of people here, and I know we can make some improvements and continue providing a quality education to our students.”

A special meeting to approve Nelson’s contract as superintendent will be Monday July 30.

In other news from the meeting:

4The board unanimously voted to name the magnet program located at the old Ridgecrest site the Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology.

The school selected its 120 kindergarten to fifth-grade students through a lottery process, hired seven teachers and is in the process of ordering instructional material to open in August.

4The board voted to allocate $20,000 to $25,000 to pay college-course fees for dual-enrollment high school students in all three high schools in the parish.

Nelson said funding for those classes was previously paid for by the state, but those funds were zeroed out in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recently approved budget.

With the highest number of eligible students for the program in recent years, Nelson said the school district couldn’t afford to let that program be swept away.

“We don’t want the state’s negative decision to impact the future of our students,” Nelson said. “We want to encourage more and more kids to participate and succeed in the program.”

The program offers students the opportunity to take college-level courses in subjects like English and math, while enrolled in high school.

If a student completes that course, they can get college credit to schools that participate in the program like the University of Louisiana in Monroe, Nelson said.

4The board announced that Ferriday High School assistant football coach Cleothis Cummings was hired as the school’s head coach.

The positions of Ferriday High School principal and Ferriday Junior High School assistant principal will be advertised for again. The board conducted an interview process, but did not fill the openings.

“We interviewed a number of candidates for both positions, but didn’t feel like we had the right candidate for either position,” Nelson said. “We will advertise the positions again and continue interviews until we find the right fit.”