Since leaving his principal’s office at Comeaux High in April, Joe Craig has moved offices — and job titles — twice within the Lafayette Parish School System’s central office building. Craig first filled the roles of director of career and technical education and schools of choice director. Then, he was selected to fill the new role of chief administrative officer in June — a position created as part of new Superintendent Donald Aguillard’s reorganization plan. Craig has worked for the school system for 25 years. He spoke with The Acadiana Advocate about the new position and his oversight of operations with the school system.
This is a new position for the system. What is your day-to-day role as chief administrative officer?
I oversee transportation, technology, the elementary, middle and high schools, and child welfare and attendance. I see my role as serving as the liaisons between those departments and the academic departments that Annette (Samec, chief academic officer) supervises and communicating that information to Dr. Aguillard and the board so the system operates as efficiently as possible.
Do you have a role in planning for the new high school?
We brought in all the stakeholders: business leaders, parents and School Board staff for these planning sessions last week. Everyone’s sharing their vision for what we’re looking for in a 21st-century high school. The closest we have to a new high school is David Thibodaux (STEM Magnet Academy). While in this district they’re more progressive than other high schools, it is a retrofitted middle school. The last high school would have been Acadiana High, and that was in the ’60s. We’re asking everyone for their input on what a 21st-century learner needs to be successful, and that’s certainly not a classroom with rows of 20 desks. I envision it to a certain extent along the lines of a community college-type setting — more open spaces, more collaborative spaces.
What do you view as operational needs within the school system?
Facilities is really the need. That comes up over and over. We work at building a new southside high school, but you can’t lose sight of the fact that you have older established buildings that need attention. That’s a big issue. We haven’t gotten involved in it yet, but the rezoning of the elementary and middle schools will be significant in terms of planning for the upcoming school year. That will directly impact transportation, so when we start talking about rezoning, that’s something that we’ll really have to watch.
What’s been challenging about this new position?
Probably that you can’t make everyone happy. You do your best. You get a concern or someone wants you to look into something, and three-fourths of the situations, we come up with a good solution. But there’s always a situation where you can’t give the school, child or parent what they want. You always shoot for 100 percent, so sometimes it can be unfortunate that you can’t give everybody what they want and it would be nice if you could do that. I’d be everybody’s hero.
Marsha Sills covers education for The Acadiana Advocate. Follow her on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.