Before taking over as East Baton Rouge Parish’s next school superintendent, Warren Drake is likely to spend May and June as a consultant, working in tandem with outgoing Superintendent Bernard Taylor.
“As you know, there can only be one superintendent,” Drake said Tuesday.
Taylor’s three-year contract does not expire until June 30 and he has thus far resisted suggestions to consider leaving early.
Drake, who was selected unanimously April 2 to succeed Taylor, said he respects Taylor’s prerogative to remain until the end of his contract, but at the same time the former Zachary superintendent is eager to get working.
“The sooner I get there the better,” he said. “It’s hard to affect the new school year the later it goes.”
There is a precedent for a consulting arrangement. In 2009, incoming Superintendent John Dilworth served briefly as a consultant, working alongside Charlotte Placide, who was retiring after five years leading the parish school system.
In becoming superintendent, Drake is returning to the place where he spent most of his career, including six years as principal of Tara High. Drake, however, is best known for founding the new Zachary school system, which he led from 2002 to 2012, helping it rocket to the top of the state’s academic rankings, where it remains.
Drake, at his March 26 board interview, presented a plan of the things he hopes to accomplish in his first 100 days in his new job, a plan he titled “One Team, One Mission.” He lists 14 tasks he will undertake during a May 1-to-June 30 transition period. The tasks include meeting with every principal, holding a board retreat and meeting with organizers of the St. George incorporation petition.
“We cannot wait another minute to help our students be the best they can be,” Drake writes in conclusion.
On Tuesday, Drake described what he would do as a consultant this way: “The main thing is to visit with principals, meet with Central Office staff, look at the organizational chart and begin to build a team from within and from without.”
Taylor would not comment Tuesday on the transition or his job plans.
“This is not about me or my plans,” Taylor said. “The focus should be on the district and its new leader and how he plans to go forward.”
School Board President David Tatman and Vice President Barbara Freiberg met with Taylor on Monday to discuss the transition.
Tatman said the meeting went well and that Taylor offered to work closely with Drake as he comes on board.
“Dr. Taylor has been very vocal that he wants to help,” Tatman said.
Drake said Tuesday he wishes Taylor had delayed his mid-March decision to promote 112 principals and school administrators from interim to permanent status so that he, or whoever else might have been chosen as superintendent, could have reviewed the list first.
“I’m sure there are some people there that deserved permanent status, but I don’t think the timing was good,” Drake said.
As far as his official superintendent contract, Drake said board leadership has sent him an initial offer that he is reviewing and he plans to respond soon. The contract, he said, will include performance measures — a requirement of a 2012 state law — but the two sides have yet to settle on what those measures will be.
Tatman said the negotiations have been slowed because Drake is still wrapping up work at his job as administrator with the Louisiana Department of Education. But Tatman said he expects to complete work on both the superintendent contract and the consulting contract by the end of April.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Tatman said. “He’s pretty excited about coming on board, and we’re excited about getting him on board.”
Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.