With little discussion, the leadership of the past four years quickly returned to power Thursday night as the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board re-elected David Tatman as its president and named former President Barbara Freiberg as vice president.
In both cases, the board spurned Tarvald Smith, who sought Thursday to be president and then again to be vice president. The vote ends a four-year tenure for Smith as vice president.
The same six board members who voted for Tatman then voted for Freiberg: Mark Bellue, Connie Bernard, Jill Dyason, Freiberg, Tatman and Evelyn Ware-Jackson.
The same three members voted twice for Smith: Vereta Lee, Kenyetta Nelson-Smith and Smith.
This is the first time in years that the board will have all-white leadership.
The six votes for Tatman and Freiberg make up a 6-3 business-backed supermajority that emerged from the fall School Board elections. That’s strengthened from the sparse 6-5 majority the business-backed board members had during the past four years.
In the lead-up to Thursday’s meeting, it was not clear if the supermajority would hold. Dyason, who joined the board in 2001 and has served the longest, had expressed interest in becoming president, and Bernard said she would nominate Dyason for the post. Dyason, however, had said she preferred there to be a consensus on the board to make her president.
Bernard and Ware-Jackson said earlier that they would consider serving as vice president, though Ware-Jackson was the more reluctant of the two, but neither was nominated for the job.
In the end, Bernard led the charge to put Tatman and Freiberg back in charge, nominating both for the positions they won.
Afterward, she said her decision to change course away from Dyason was simple.
“She didn’t have the votes,” Bernard said.
Tatman and Freiberg will serve one-year terms, setting the stage for another board leadership election 12 months from now. That’s a change the board made Thursday night in response to criticism by Lee that the old two-year terms limited the chances of other board members to serve in leadership.
The vote on the new policy was 8-1. Dyason was the only board member to vote against the measure.
Freiberg served two years as president, from 2011 through 2012, and Tatman succeeded her as president for a two-year term, from 2013 through 2014.
Freiberg is a retired educator, and Smith is a self-employed attorney. Dyason is system development and communications manager for Magellan Health, based in suburban Hartford, Connecticut. Tatman is president of The Tatman Group, a governmental relations and association management company, and is a registered lobbyist.
Tatman and Freiberg will preside over a board that has long been divided. Relations frayed further in 2014 after an unsuccessful legislative attempt to shift power from the School Board and Central Office to school principals, and then a successful July 24 vote to reduce the board from 11 to nine members.
Craig Freeman opted not to run for re-election.