The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board plans to select a new superintendent on April 2 as part of an accelerated timeline approved Wednesday afternoon.
The timeline is based on the recommendations of a special committee, formed just days earlier, of three board members who met Monday. The members are Connie Bernard, Barbara Freiberg and Tarvald Smith.
This is shaping up to be a much faster and far more locally focused search than previous searches, which typically lasted months, were conducted nationwide and overseen by search firms.
The board voted last week to start advertising to find someone to replace Bernard Taylor, whose three-year stint as superintendent ends June 30. An initial ad appeared in Sunday’s Advocate, and a second ad is set to run Sunday. Running the ads a week apart complies with a state law. No one has turned in an application as yet, though board President David Tatman said he has fielded several inquiries, including some from outside Louisiana.
The board voted 8-1 Wednesday in favor of the timeline. Only Vereta Lee voted no, saying that the process is rushed, that she was not consulted on dates and that the whole process is for show. She was particularly incensed about the March 18 meeting, saying that’s her birthday and her family has a birthday party planned for her that day.
“We already know which way we’re going with this, and we’re just going through the process, but the truth of the matter is we should have considered other (board) members and what they had to do,” Lee said.
Smith explained that state law requires a 30-day waiting period after the second ad runs in the official journal, and that March 18 is the first day that the board can legally take action as it tries to select a superintendent.
“I wanted to slow things down,” Smith said, but added there are benefits to moving quickly.
Taylor was present, but left the room when the discussion turned to the superintendent search.
After some debate, the board agreed to deviate from the three-member committee’s recommendations and advertise in other places besides The Advocate, namely Education Week magazine, the website for the Washington, D.C.-based Council of Great City Schools of which the system is a member, and the Teach Louisiana website. The non-Advocate ads, however, can cost no more than $1,000 total.
“I don’t want to narrow it down to just those who are digging deep into The Advocate to see an advertisement,” said board member Kenyetta Nelson-Smith.
Freiberg said she had second thoughts about nationally advertising the job after getting sticker shock looking at the price of an Education Week ad, but relented Wednesday after several board members complained.
Board member Mark Bellue said he thinks that candidates are finding out about the job anyway, but said national ads may attract other good applicants.
“I don’t want to give the impression we’re trying to limit our field of applicants,” Bellue said.
The timeline approved Wednesday is:
MARCH 13: 4:30 p.m, deadline for applications.
MARCH 18: 6 p.m., special School Board meeting to go through application and narrow down to “no more than” three finalists.
MARCH 26: interviews with the finalists.
APRIL 2: select a new superintendent.
After the decision is made, Tatman, as board president, and Freiberg, as vice president, will negotiate a contract with the person selected and hire a firm to do an extensive executive background check on that person. Tatman said the negotiations and the need for the new superintendent to alert their current employer, could well delay the start date until May.
In June 2014, the board voted 10-1 not to extend Superintendent Taylor’s contract when it expired. In December, several board members pushed to extend Taylor’s contract, but the effort lacked enough votes to pass, and the item was withdrawn.