LIVINGSTON – Superintendent Rick Wentzel has opened many public speeches and addresses to the Livingston Parish School Board with a light comment or joke.
It was no different at the board’s meeting on Thursday, April 18.
“This is the last time you will hear me giving comments,” Wentzel said when the “superintendent’s comments” item was reached on the agenda.
The next item on the agenda was the selection of Wentzel’s successor.
“I’ve said the first decision I made as superintendent was when I canceled school the Friday of the flood," Wentzel said.
“Guess what? The last decision I am going to make is canceling school today,” he said to the laughter of a standing-room only crowd.
“I’m glad it wasn’t a flood,” he said.
“I have to say this,” Wentzel added, gesturing to Kelly Jones, principal of Denham Springs High, seated in the audience.
“I went to Denham Springs High School this past week and I had no clue he had spies on his campus to let him know when the superintendent is on campus,” he said.
“As soon as I got on campus that student ran to him and said, ‘That guy who never cancels school is here.’
“Guess what? We get to go out with a bang,” Wentzel said.
The superintendent, who was only in office four weeks before the Great Flood of 2016, then got serious.
“My last comments,” Wentzel said, “The educators here are committed to the children and it’s unfortunate our Legislature is playing political football with the money to help our teachers. I’m appalled at that.
“I couldn’t ask for better people than I have had as superintendent for the past three years. I enjoyed this board; I enjoyed the previous board and the students and staff.
“While transitioning to retirement, I will miss being part of the committed educators and leaders throughout our system.
“Although I will be retired, I will continue to be the best cheerleader for Livingston Parish schools,” Wentzel said. “As God brought his blessings to Livington Parish, may God continue to bless Livingston Parish public schools.”
To a standing ovation, Wentzel picked up his notebook and walked out of the chamber.
The board selected Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy as its next leader of the school system of 26,000 students. Wentzel will move to the position of consultant to the board to help the transition of the new superintendent.
Wentzel’s last day in the office will be May 31. He will use accumulated leave until his official retirement on June 15.