Ten individuals, including four former superintendents, have applied to become the next superintendent of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.
The deadline to apply was 4:30 p.m. Friday. The search was launched Feb. 6.
The applicants range from School Board watcher James Finney, whose day job is a math instructor at a local technical college, to Adel Haddad, an IT director for a northern Indiana company. Only one applicant, McKinley High Assistant Principal James T. Kador, works in the system now. Seven of the 10 applicants either work or have worked in Louisiana or went to school in the state.
The best known locally is Warren Drake, who spent a decade as superintendent of the top-rated Zachary school system before leaving in 2012 to become an administrator with the Louisiana Department of Education. Drake spent most of his career, though, with East Baton Rouge Parish, including several years as principal of Tara High School. Drake was the first to apply.
Three more applicants have run school systems: Marlon King, Mathew Neal and Julian Stafford. They led school districts in Haywood County, Tennessee; Rock Springs, Wyoming; and New London, Connecticut, respectively, though none is serving as superintendent at present.
All three districts are relatively small, 3,000 to 6,000 students, compared with East Baton Rouge Parish, which has more than 42,000 students and 80-plus schools.
The other applicants are Charles Michel, of Metairie; Victoria Bridges Miles, of Fort Worth, Texas; and C. Michael Robinson Jr., of Landover, Maryland.
The School Board plans to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday to narrow the pool of 10 applicants to three finalists. The finalists are scheduled to come before the board March 26 for a public interview. The board plans to pick a superintendent on April 2.
Whoever is selected will replace Bernard Taylor, whose three-year contract as superintendent expires June 30.
Unlike previous searches, this search purposely was not widely advertised or shopped around by a national search firm. Consequently, it has generated much less interest. For instance, the 2012 search that led to Taylor’s hiring attracted 44 applicants.
Five of the 10 superintendent applicants have at least some central office experience in midsize to large school districts. They are Michel, Miles, Neal, Robinson and Stafford.
In 2003, Stafford left his job running the New London public schools to take over as a top administrator with New Orleans public schools. As an area superintendent, he oversaw 57 schools until 2005’s Hurricane Katrina came in and swept away his job as well as those of every employee in that large school district. Post-storm, Stafford spent 18 months conducting research and evaluating programs in Washington, D.C., public schools. Since 2008, Stafford has worked for New Orleans-based Modern Parents Magazine as well as associated educational companies and endeavors.
Like Stafford, Michel also worked for a spell in New Orleans. He spent 18 months after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, six months of them as assistant deputy superintendent with the Recovery School District, before heading to Lafourche Parish for his current job as special education director for that school system, a job he’s held for the past seven years.
Neal worked from 2011 to 2013 as director of strategy and innovation for the large Denver public school system. In that job, according to his résumé, Neal launched nine schools and oversaw 27 “innovative” and “autonomous” schools. In 2013, he left Denver to become superintendent of public schools in Sweetwater County in southwest Wyoming. According to the minutes of local school board meetings, Neal’s tenure there was cut short in September of last year when the board voted to put him on administrative leave. A month later, the board accepted his voluntary resignation. Neal’s application makes no mention of all this and indicates he continued as superintendent there into 2015.
Miles, director of federal programs for the Keller Independent School District north of Fort Worth, Texas, which has more than 33,000 students, is a 1977 graduate of Southern University in Baton Rouge.
Robinson has spent the past 18 months as a central office administrator in Prince George’s County Public Schools in suburban Washington, D.C., a large system with more than 120,000 students. As an instructional director, he oversees 13 schools and 8,000 students, according to his résumé. Prior to that position, he spent five years as a middle school principal in the same school district and, before that, three years as an elementary school principal in Greenville, Georgia. He earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southern University in New Orleans.
Finney is the most unusual of the applicants. He is a frequent critic and commenter on local school matters. He has no experience working in elementary and secondary schools, though he has taught college-level math through the years.
He has recommendation letters from Jerry Arbour, a recently ousted School Board member, and Tricia Sanchez, an educational activist who led an attack group that in 2010 tried to oust incumbent School Board members, including Arbour, but sat out a similar campaign last fall. Sanchez is the daughter of Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby, who bankrolled both efforts to change the membership of the School Board.
Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.