Pete Jabbia, the associate superintendent of human resources for St. Tammany Parish Public Schools, has told fellow district leaders that he intends to retire on June 30 after nearly 54 years as an educator and administrator.
Jabbia, 76, made the announcement earlier this month in a message to school principals and other administrators. Her retirement coincides with the conclusion of the school district’s fiscal year, which ends on the last day of June each year.
“I can really say that I loved teaching and I loved being an administrator,” said Jabbia. “Working with such a dedicated group of people has been incredibly rewarding, especially the principals and assistant principals of our schools. They have the hardest job in our system.”
Jabbia began his career in 1968 as a teacher at Chahta-Ima in Lacombe, shortly after the integration of the parish schools. He taught at various local schools for 10 years, then served as assistant principal at Carolyn Park Middle School and then as principal at Brock Elementary School and Slidell High School. In 1983, he was appointed assistant superintendent of St. Tammany Parish Schools and became associate district superintendent a decade later.
Jabbia served as the school district’s interim superintendent from July to November 2020, following the resignation of Trey Folse, who accepted a position with the state Department of Education. Jabbia’s son, Frank Jabbia, was chosen by the School Board as Folse’s replacement, marking the seventh superintendent with whom Jabbia’s elder worked.
The hiring of Frank Jabbia as superintendent caused some controversy, with critics, including at least one School Board member, alleging nepotism. Many School Board members strongly refuted the claim, pointing to young Jabbia’s 26 years of experience as a teacher and principal as reason enough for hiring him.
“Ever since Frankie entered the school system, some people said he got a job because of his father,” said Pete Jabbia. “Frankie earned things on his account and on his own merit…and none of that comes into play with why I’m leaving. Not one bit. I have done this for a long time. I still have my health. It’s time to let some new blood in here.”
Michael Dirmann, a five-term School Board member, said Jabbia has been a pillar in parish education, helping guide the district through good times and some tough ones as well.
“I think of Hurricane Katrina and recently the pandemic,” Dirmann said. “Those things were unprecedented. When the board approached Pete (after Folse’s resignation), he told us that he had no intention of being a superintendent or even a long-term interim superintendent. He has always been a soldier. He wants to take orders from someone and get things done. He is a doer.”
That includes helping build the Human Resources Department, which began as a department of two in 1983.
“It was me and a secretary,” Jabbia said. “Now it is a department of 20 and all that and more is needed. I am proud of what we have been able to do for the people who work for the school district.”
When Jabbia was hired in 1968, there were approximately 15,000 students in some 29 parish schools. Now, there are 55 schools with a student population of more than 38,000, making St. Tammany the fourth largest public school district in Louisiana. The parochial schools also employ more than 5,000 people, making them by far the largest employer in St. Tammany. Jabbia was also instrumental in the district’s first collective bargaining agreement with employees several decades ago.
“Pete has been a true public servant,” Dirmann said. “I don’t think his heart and dedication can be questioned. I feel very strong about it.”
Management previously said the associate superintendent position would be dissolved upon the elder Jabbia’s retirement. An assistant superintendent of human resources is expected to be hired in the coming months.