Appeals panel sides with Pat Cooper, sends case back to Lafayette courts

Pat Cooper listens during a Lafayette Parish School Board termination hearing in 2014. (Photo: The Daily Advertiser file photo)

(The Daily Advertiser) – The 15th Judicial District Court will have to determine how much money the school system owes to former superintendent Pat Cooper.

On Wednesday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Cooper on multiple fronts after a rehearing of his wrongful termination lawsuit against the district.

The school board fired Cooper in November 2014 after determining he had violated state law and/or district policy in certain personnel and budget decisions. Cooper filed the lawsuit soon after.

The appeals court ruled that Cooper, as superintendent, had the authority to place five principals on a 244-day working schedule, thereby increasing their pay.

The judges also found the district court was correct in ruling the school board was wrong to terminate Cooper based on his refusal to fire a special assistant.

“We remand the matter to the district court for a determination of the damages owed to Dr. Cooper based on the Board’s breach of his employment contract,” the appeals court wrote.

The judges also assessed court costs of $11,909 to the Lafayette Parish School System.

Cooper had about a year left on his contract at the time of his termination and was paid approximately $200,000 per year.

The school system has budgeted $297,900 in the 2017-18 budget for a potential payout to Cooper.

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