Search for Ascension Parish Schools superintendent underway

Michael Tortorich

The Ascension Parish School Board Tuesday night moved forward with the process of finding a new superintendent to take over for Donald Songy, who announced his retirement last month.

Songy will retire at the end of the school year.

The period for accepting candidate applications will close Feb. 22, according to spokesperson Johnnie Balfantz.

Community interviews will begin a month after the application date. An eight-member advisory committee will help screen applicants.

Committee members include Bill Martin, River Parishes Community College executive vice chancellor; Gussie Hahn, CF Industries; Robert Burgess, EATEL; Becky Katz, Donaldsonville Area Chamber of Commerce; Sherrie Despino, Ascension Chamber of Commerce; Jessie Bartley and Ralph Ricardo, school system retirees; and Randall Aldridge, former board member.

A replacement should be in place by April 16, according to Balfantz.

The board has been advertising the open position on its Web site,, and in several area newspapers, including The Weekly Citizen.

In other business, the board recognized the principals of the year from each of the three grade levels.

Named principals of the year were: Eleanor Lassiter of Gonzales Primary, Doug Walker of Dutchtown Middle and David Alexander of Dutchtown High.

“It’s great to get some recognition,” Alexander said.

Lassiter credited the teachers and staff she works with at her school.

Walker also pointed to the people surrounding him.

Lassiter was originally hired by the district in 1972. She returned to the parish in 1985. She has been principal at Gonzales Primary since 2002.

Walker was hired to teach in Ascension in 1976. He elevated to assistant principal in 1990, and became principal at Dutchtown Middle in 2003.

Alexander worked out of state before becoming a teacher at St. Amant High in 1997. He was named assistant principal at Dutchtown High in 2003, and promoted to principal in 2005.

Songy said he often gets advice from his mother, who also was an educator, who advises, “Make sure to get good principals.”

“They’re what make this school system great,” Songy said. “We have great principals.”

In other matters Tuesday:

• Songy reported the school system is working with law enforcement to stop hunting on the system’s property behind the Ascension Civic Center in Sorrento.

• The board met with Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives to discuss reimbursements for Hurricane Gustav damage. The system expects to receive $400,000 to $500,000 from FEMA and roughly the same amount in additional funds from insurance claims.

• The district will host a technology conference Saturday at Central Middle School, where more than 200 teachers will train on the new teaching software and equipment. It will be 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

• Board members heard the annual report on the head start program.

• The board canceled the Feb. 16 meeting due to the Mardi Gras holiday.