The St. Tammany Parish School Board said goodbye Thursday to a longtime district administrator and welcomed another to take his place.
Pete Jabbia attended his last school board meeting as a trustee on Thursday, after nearly 54 years in public schools. Jabbia, 76, will continue to serve as associate superintendent of St. Tammany Parish Public Schools until June 30, when he retires. He is the father of Superintendent of Schools Frank Jabbia.
Steve Alfonso, who most recently served as the district’s director of human resources, was introduced as deputy superintendent of human resources. It’s a new position, one that was created when district administrators decided last year that the post of associate superintendent would be phased out following the retirement of the elder Jabbia.
The school board and district administrators met in executive session earlier Thursday to consider nominations to replace Pete Jabbia. Alfonso was one of three people to apply for the new position, but the only one who met the qualifications in the job description, communications director Meredith Mendez said. One of the three applicants was from outside the St. Tammany school system, she confirmed.
Alfonso has over 24 years of experience as an educator and administrator. He worked in public and private schools in the parish of Saint-Bernard and at Lycée Rummel before starting at Lycée Fontainebleau in 2008 as a computer applications teacher and coach. He later served as athletic director and administrative assistant at Lakeshore High and assistant principal at Northshore High. He was named school district transportation supervisor in 2015 and held that position before becoming supervisor/manager of human resources in 2019.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Alfonso said, waving Pete Jabbia. “He built this department. … It was him and another when it started and now it’s a team of 25, … It’s going to be difficult to manage, but I’m ready for the opportunity.
Pete Jabbia’s name came up later in the meeting when a list of retiring staff was called for the record, giving school board members a chance to offer their best wishes.
“Pete, there’s no one to replace you and your knowledge of the system,” said Beth Heintz, who is in her sixth term on the board. “I so appreciate the time spent working with you.”
Michael Winkler said Jabbia was head of the district’s human resources department when he got his first local teaching job in Lee Road.
“We didn’t have a job fair back then,” Winkler said. “He said, ‘Go up there and see the principal.’ A lot of people don’t realize that Pete practically created our insurance system. He turned it into something very affordable, and it brought a lot of people to that parish. … Everyone in our families has benefited thanks to you.
Pete Jabbia began his career in 1968 as a teacher at Chatha-Ima in Lacombe, shortly after the integration of parish schools. He taught at various schools for 10 years, then served as vice-principal at Carolyn Park Middle School, then principal at Brock Elementary and Slidell Junior High. In 1983, he was appointed assistant superintendent of schools for the parish of St. Tammany, and he became associate superintendent of the district a decade later.
He also served as acting superintendent when Trey Folse resigned in 2020 to take up a position with the state Department of Education. The school board hired Frank Jabbia for superintendent this fall, prompting cries of nepotism from some corners, including former school board member Shelta Richardson, who quit late last year. . Other members noted that Frank Jabbia’s 26 years of experience as a teacher and principal qualified him for the top job.
The school district also named 19 new vice principals this month. They include Jeff Mills Pearl River High; Lauren Bethancourt, Covington High School; Gabrielle Unda, Mayfield Elementary; Michelle Folse, Cypress Cove Elementary; Michelle Cassidy, Tchefuncte Middle; Zaheerah Clark, Abney Elementary; Alexandra Howard, Bayou Woods Elementary School; Kathleen Landry, Boyet High School; Delouche Cliff, Covington High; Rowland Skinner, Lakeshore High; Anthony Defrates, Salmen High School; Lynda Paleo, Slidell High; Fred Wild, Slidell High School; and Tania Woods, St. Tammany Junior High.
New assistant parish directors include Michael Adams, Stephanie Alexius, Drew Cosentino, Letrece McCoy and Stephanie Franzo. These administrators can be placed in different schools throughout the school year.