BR.finalistsinteviews.adv HS 564.JPG

East Baton Rouge Parish school superintendent finalist Leslie Brown of Fort Lauderdale speaks during a town hall for the two final candidates for EBR school superintendent, Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La.

Less than two months on the job, East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Leslie M. Brown is taking immediate, emergency medical leave.

The 62-year-old Brown issued a letter to the community Monday evening announcing the move.

"This is certainly not how I had hoped to start this school year and my time in East Baton Rouge," Brown said. "Yet, as we know, life doesn’t always go as planned."

She said she requested leave from the School Board on Monday. Associate Superintendent Ben Necaise is taking over as her designee while she's on leave.

"As this is a personal and private matter, there will be no additional comments at this time," school system spokeswoman Taylor Gast said in a separate statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Brown. We wish her a speedy recovery."

Board President Mike Gaudet said Brown called him Monday morning to let him know she needed to take leave. He said he knew she had been sick — she missed work Thursday and Friday — but had no idea it was so bad.

"All I knew was that she was under the weather," Gaudet said.

He said the two talked about how the system would handle her absence, but did not talk further about her health.

"I did not pry," he said. "I was trying to respect her privacy."

Tramelle Howard, vice president of the board, said he first learned about the superintendent's situation along with everyone else, when the news broke Monday night.

“It’s news and a shock to me,” Howard said.

Howard said he’s not aware of any prior medical issues with Brown. He said that during the search process that led to Brown’s hiring in mid-June, Brown underwent a physical, and board members were informed about it.

“At some point her medical history did come up and as far I was concerned everything was fine and good,” Howard said.

An indication of health issues came up when Brown did not attend Thursday night’s parish School Board meeting. An announcement was made that night that Brown was ill and could not attend, but no other details were given. Necaise took her place that night.

Howard said he knows nothing about the illness that kept her home that night and said he was not aware that it was exceptional in any way.

Brown took over the state's second largest traditional school district on Aug. 3. She replaced Warren Drake, who retired in July.

Prior to coming to Baton Rouge, Brown had spent seven years as chief of portfolio services for Broward County public schools in Florida. Brown, 62, has more than 41 years of experience in education, almost all of it in Florida.


Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.