The previously low-temperature search for the person who will replace Central school’s founding superintendent, Michael Faulk, heated up Monday night as teachers and residents pressed for a greater say in who that person will be.

Saying he was speaking on behalf of a group of fellow faculty and residents, Central High teacher Ken Worsham said finding the right successor to Faulk will determine whether Central continues to improve and eventually outpace the academically top-ranked Zachary school district.

“We're tired of being No. 2,” Worsham said. “It’s like kissing your sister. We want to be No. 1.”

Worsham urged the board to let a group of individuals representing a cross-section of the community into the room as it questions the applicants for the top job over Central’s public schools.

“There’s wisdom in counsel,” said Worsham.

The superintendent search began in mid-August and the deadline to apply is Wednesday; mailed-in applications must be postmarked no later than that date. The applications are set to be opened at the close of business Oct. 16 and the board plans to meet Oct. 18 at a still-to-be-determined time to settle on which applicants it will interview. Interviews are planned for the following week.

Faulk announced his resignation June 26 and it takes effect Dec. 31. He has accepted a new position as executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents. Faulk is the only school superintendent Central has had since it broke away from East Baton Rouge Parish public schools in 2007.

Several individuals with a newly formed group called the Central Athletic Association showed up to Monday’s School Board meeting to speak. They, too, asked for a seat at the table, noting what they consider Central’s athletic facilities as substandard compared with neighboring school districts, particularly Zachary, but also some private schools.

Trey McClure, a Central resident, said Central High is losing student athletes to other schools in the area because of its lackluster facilities. McClure said three athletes this past week decided to transfer to Catholic High School. He said he knows the school system has been working with the money it has, but it’s not enough.

“I know you’ve made upgrades, but no one can see it,” McClure said.

Board member Sharon Browning said the problems with the school system’s athletic facilities are directly connected to its tax base. She noted that Zachary raises almost four times what Central raises just in property taxes alone.

“If we want the facilities that Zachary has, we’d have to raise taxes,” she said.

Browning hastened to add she’s against raising taxes currently because of the tough circumstances many residents are in because of the August 2016 flooding.

Central board members encouraged the full house to give it feedback on the superintendent applicants and the issues Central faces.

“I don’t only want to hear what you’re thinking, I covet it,” said board President David Walker.

While willing to listen, board members on Monday stopped short of inviting people outside the board to sit in the entirety of their interviews with the applicants.

Board member Jim Lloyd said having the board meet in tandem with a citizen committee to interview the candidates would “not be appropriate.”

“That’s why you put us here, to make these kinds of decisions,” Lloyd said.

Central Councilman Shane Evans urged the board to find a new superintendent who has been successful in getting community support so that Central could try to pass a “modest” tax to improve its athletic facilities.

Other audience members questioned the board’s decision to not hire someone to do a professional search to recruit people who might not otherwise apply.

Browning answered that Central had hired a search firm years back to find a new principal for Central High and ended up promoting someone in-house to the job.

The board on Monday agreed unanimously to a few small changes in how it will choose its next superintendent. For instance, the board won’t interview applicants strictly behind closed doors in executive session as originally planned, but will ask each one three questions in a public session.

Here are a few other highlights of how the search will unfold:

  • School officials will review the applications after they are opened late Oct. 16 to determined which individuals are qualified based on the advertisement for the job. Before releasing applications to the public, they will redact any certain information they deem confidential, including cell phone numbers, social security numbers, medical records and college transcripts, before releasing all of the applications to the public.
  • Residents who have questions they want the board to ask the applicants have until Oct. 18 to either email President Walker at gdavidwalker@css.org or mail in questions to Central Community School System, P.O. Box 317, City of Central, LA 70837-0317.
  • Each candidate interviewed will make a five-minute opening statement and a three-minute closing statement.
  • After asking three questions in public of each candidate interviewed, the board plans to discuss the candidate’s character and professional competence behind closed doors in executive session.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier