Leslie Brown.BR.suptcandidates.adv.Photo1.jpg

Leslie Brown

With her health on a swift decline, newly appointed East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Leslie Brown has decided to resign from the job she’s held for just two months.

In a sign of how bad things have gone, Brown’s resignation letter, dated Wednesday, was not even written by her, but by her husband, Bill.

“Today, it is with great sadness I write to you, as her husband and as her power of attorney, to report her health has continued to deteriorate, leaving her unable to pen this letter herself and forcing her to tender her resignation,” her husband wrote.

The letter is signed by her and her husband.

It was barely two weeks ago that Brown, 62, unexpectedly went on emergency medical leave for an unspecified reason. 

Her resignation is effective Thursday.

“We are deeply saddened by her departure, and our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Brown, her husband Bill and her children during these trying times. Ms. Brown has chosen not to disclose the nature of her illness, and we respect her right to privacy,” the school system said in a statement Wednesday afternoon announcing Brown's resignation.

The 62-year-old Brown first disclosed her illness on Sept. 21, surprising the Baton Rouge community.

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

Brown has not spoken publicly about her situation since. In the resignation letter, Brown's husband said, "This medical emergency was completely unforeseen and unexpected."

Brown took over as superintendent for the school district on Aug. 3. She replaced Warren Drake, who retired in July.

Brown named two designees to take her place during her medical leave: associate superintendents Ben Necaise and Adam Smith. Both held those same positions under Drake.

At first, just Necaise was her acting replacement, but two days later, Brown elevated Smith to her designee as well. Necaise is overseeing primarily secondary grades while Smith is focusing on elementary grades.

Smith, along with Brown, were semifinalists this past spring during the search to replace Drake. Brown and Nakia Towns, chief of staff for Hamilton County, Tennessee, schools, were named finalists. On June 18, Brown ended up winning the job with a bare majority of five votes, while Towns received four votes.

School Board President Mike Gaudet said he hasn’t spoken with Brown directly since she went on leave on Sept. 21, but has been in touch with her attorneys.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

“The whole thing is a surprise,” Gaudet said. “It is just the last day or so that we’ve been trying to work out the details.”

Now, the state's second-largest traditional school district will have to look for a new school chief twice in the same year.

The School Board plans to start discussing determining who will replace Brown in the short term and the long term when it holds its regular meeting on Oct. 15. Gaudet said he’s not sure yet how the board will proceed. He said the Austin, Texas-based search firm that led the search resulting in Brown’s hiring offers clients to do a second search for free if the superintendent selected doesn’t work out, but he said he’s not sure if that applies to a medical resignation.

“I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out (with them), if we chose to go that route,” he said.

Gaudet also said he’s sad about the turn of events.

“I feel really sorry for her family and her, but also my impression was she was doing an excellent job, she had gotten the staff behind her,” he said. “It’s a loss for the district but like everything, we have to move up and move on.”

Board Vice President Tramelle Howard said that while he didn’t agree with Brown on some things, she was a good listener, especially on his concerns about fairness and equity in the school system.

“She was very open to those conservations,” Howard said.

Howard said he’s still figuring out how best to replace Brown.

“It’s unfortunate we find ourselves in this position as a district, but that’s what we have to figure out, and it’s our job to do what’s right for kids,” Howard said.

In its statement Wednesday, the school system said that during her short time in Baton Rouge, Brown demonstrated “a passion for education and students (that) was evident in every decision she made.”

“We have nothing but the deepest respect for Ms. Brown, and we are appreciative of her service to this community,” the statement says. “While no longer an employee of this system, she will always be considered a member of this family.”

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

Brown has said she considers Baton Rouge to be a second home. Her ties go back to when her parents, Robert and Gerry Marks, moved here in the 1970s and later retired. They both died within the past year, but her sister Chris still lives here. Brown moved back this summer to the family’s home on Lake Sherwood.

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