Recently, East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Jill Dyason suggested the board seek the inclusion of nontraditional candidates during its search for a new school superintendent (“School board debates, delays decisions on firms,” July 22).

In response, Carnell Washington, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers — one of the school system’s teacher unions — stated that the education system is “the only profession that I know of that says experience doesn’t matter.”

Besides being shortsighted, Washington’s comment is just plain wrong. In fairness, however, he does qualify his statement by acknowledging that he doesn’t “know” of any professions where experience doesn’t matter.

To help understand this situation and provide some context, here are some examples of nontraditional candidates who have been both selected and successful.

Lou Gerstner, who is widely recognized as the man who saved IBM, came to the technology company from American Express. Joel Klein was a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice and in private practice before becoming the chancellor of New York City schools and overseeing significant increases in student achievement in one of the country’s worst-performing educational systems. Maj. Gen. John Stanford spent 30 years in the U.S. Army before becoming the highly successful superintendent for the Seattle school district.

These are just three examples, and as their success proves, nontraditional candidates can and should be included in searches attempting to fill positions as important as the East Baton Rouge Parish superintendent of schools. To exclude them is simply irresponsible and does not perpetuate the belief that our leaders are doing what is in the best interest of our children’s future.

We hope that as the superintendent search process continues, Washington, his union members and the entire School Board will embrace Dyason’s suggestion that high-performing potential candidates not be limited by their current professional background.

Adam Knapp, president and CEO

Baton Rouge Area Chamber

Baton Rouge