The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board agreed Thursday to launch its search to replace Bernard Taylor, whose three-year contract as superintendent ends June 30.
The vote to launch the search was 8-0, and advertisements will be placed immediately in The Advocate. The ads are being modeled on one used more than a decade ago in the superintendent search that led to the hiring of Charlotte Placide in fall 2004.
Board member Vereta Lee abstained. After the meeting, Lee said the process is being rushed, and she’s suspicious of the motives of some board members.
“Certain board members have been out shopping for a superintendent, and they are only talking to white Caucasian people,” she said. “That bothers me.”
She added that the race of the next superintendent doesn’t matter to her. She just wants to ensure that the process is fair and open.
“It doesn’t matter to me, as long as that person is qualified and treats people fair,” Lee said.
Thursday’s meeting, a specially called meeting, is only the second gathering of the board since it took the oath of office Jan. 8. The board now has nine members, down from 11, though eight of the nine served last term.
The superintendent ad the board is using as a model ran in The Advocate, as well as national publications such as Education Week. It listed seven criteria for an ideal superintendent.
The criteria were developed over several weeks of interviews with a wide range of stakeholders in summer 2004, conducted by Hazard Young Attea & Associates, a national search firm. The criteria ranged from the obvious, “has demonstrated strong leadership skills,” to a criterion more specific to a school district like East Baton Rouge Parish, “has experience with a diverse student population.”
Candidates responding to the new ads will direct their inquiries or send their applications to Domoine Rutledge, general counsel for the school system.
The board set no deadlines for people to apply for the job. A new Superintendent Search Process Committee will decide on issues like that after the first ad is in print.
That committee, appointed earlier this week, is to report to the board with recommendations on how best to go about a search. It has yet to schedule its first meeting, but it is likely to occur soon. The three members are Barbara Freiberg, who was elected board vice president Jan. 15, Connie Bernard and Tarvald Smith, who unsuccessfully sought to be board president or vice president.
The green light to advertise for his replacement makes it more likely that Taylor, who is black, will leave when his contract ends in June. In December, several board members pushed to extend Taylor’s contract, but the effort lacked enough votes to pass, and the item was withdrawn. Six months earlier, the board voted 10-1 not to extend his contract when it expired.
State law requires that school boards faced with a vacancy and that want a permanent superintendent must, at a minimum, run at least two ads in the designated official journal, in this case The Advocate, at least 30 days before filling the job. The ads must run at least a week apart.
After Thursday’s meeting, Bernard said the second ad may differ a little from the first ad, depending on what the new committee recommends. While the committee will discuss whether more ads should be placed in other publications, Bernard said she’s fine with running an ad only in The Advocate, saying the Internet makes sure that candidates for the job will learn of the opening quickly. She also said she’d be happy with someone from Louisiana getting the job.
“I feel like it’s time for us to look for talent in this state,” she said.
The parish School Board has typically hired search firms to conduct nationwide searches when it needed to find a new superintendent. The last local-only search was in January 2002 when the board promoted Clayton Wilcox from interim to permanent superintendent, picking him over 10 other applicants who had responded to ads in The Advocate.
Several board members have expressed interest in finding someone who could start before Taylor leaves so the two could work together to ease the transition.
The board still has the option of picking an interim superintendent, obviating the legal requirement for advertising the job. The board went this route in 2004 and again in 2012.
Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.