East Baton Rouge School Board launches superintendent search _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- East Baton Rouge Parish School Board President David Tatman presides over a special meeting in 2015.

David Tatman was returned Thursday night without opposition to serve as president of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, a position he held from 2013 to 2015.

No one else was nominated Thursday night for the spot, not even Evelyn Ware-Jackson, who Tatman unseated from the job and who had expressed interest in serving for a second year as president. No board members, including Ware-Jackson, spoke. Once it was clear Tatman was the only nominee, he was approved by acclamation, meaning no recorded vote was taken.

“I’m honored to be elected by my colleagues,” Tatman said in an interview afterwards. “I know it’s a big job. I’ve done it before. I will work to bring everyone together.”

The year 2018 will be Tatman’s fourth as board president since his election to the School Board in 2011, the same year Ware-Jackson took office. Both Tatman and Ware-Jackson said they plans to seek third terms this fall from the voters, in districts 5 and 9, respectively.

Vice President Connie Bernard, who nominated Tatman for president, managed to win another year in the number two position on the School Board, but it was close. She held off Dawn Collins in a 5-4 vote.

Board members who voted in favor of Bernard were: Mark Bellue, Bernard, Mike Gaudet, Jill Dyason and Tatman.

Voting against were board members Collins, Vereta Lee, Kenyetta Nelson Smith and Ware-Jackson.

Since the fall 2010 election, the board has been divided between a majority backed by business groups in town, including the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and those supported by teacher unions and other traditional public education supporters. Since then, all the board’s presidents, including Tatman and Ware-Jackson, and, more recently all its vice presidents, have come from the business-backed majority.

Ware-Jackson supported Bernard last year in her bid to become vice president. But with Bernard supporting Tatman now, Ware-Jackson looked elsewhere for support. She said she talked with Collins, as well as board members Dyason and Lee, about running for vice president. None of the three have as yet served in leadership roles on the board although they've expressed interest in doing so.  Dyason joined the board in 2001, Lee in 2007 and Collins in 2016.

Ware-Jackson noted that when she became board president a year ago, the board shifted from two-year to one-year terms for its leaders. Board members who hadn’t served in leadership before, particularly Lee, had argued for the change as a way of allowing more people on the board a shot at being leaders. But that argument didn’t make any difference in Thursday's vote.

“I was just trying to get the board to do what they said they wanted to do,” Ware-Jackson said.

Ware-Jackson said Tatman approached her a few weeks ago to let her know he was interested in being board president again, but said he didn’t really say why, just that he had been watching from the sidelines and wanted to be back in leadership. She said Tatman directed no criticism at her leadership.

When asked whether the upcoming fall elections may have played a role in Tatman’s decision, Ware-Jackson said, “It’s 2018; it probably did.”

Tatman, however, denied that he was seeking the presidency again to burnish his chances at reelection: “That never occurred to me. That’s not how my mind works.”

Rather, Tatman said he simply enjoys serving on the School Board, all the activities associated with being in leadership and being active in school affairs.

“I love what I do,” he said.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.