The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday unanimously rehired Warren Drake to serve as its superintendent for two more years, but not before toughening up some of the goals they’d like to see him achieve over the next year.
These new goals include improving three to five schools with grades of D or F by 5 points, consolidating smaller schools in the district, submitting a balanced budget next May, and publishing an annual report on all schools that includes district-sponsored charter schools.
The board said little as it voted to renew Drake's contract. Board member Vereta Lee complimented Drake.
"I know you are trying to make sure you have the right people in the classroom to do the right thing for our children," Lee said.
The vote extends Drake's three-year contract through June 30, 2020. Drake's current contract was set to expire in June 2018.
“I do appreciate the vote of confidence,” said the 65-year-old veteran educator said after the vote.
Warren Drake is poised to stay on for two more years as East Baton Rouge Parish school super…
Drake, 65, is the first East Baton Rouge Parish superintendent whose contract has been extended since Charlotte Placide in 2007. He is on track to be the longest-serving superintendent since Placide, who held the job for five years.
Drake’s base salary, currently $249,411 per year, will grow 3 percent each year, assuming he continues to receive favorable evaluations. His next evaluation, if favorable, would increase his annual salary to $256,791. He started in 2015 at $235,000 per year.
Drake's initial contract had 17 goals, while his contract extension shrinks that to 10. Some goals are identical or substantially similar. If met, they could add as much as $20,000 to Drake's pay each year.
The Baton Rouge chapter of the pro-school-choice parent group, Stand For Children, took an active role in pressing for the goal that Drake zero in on improving three to five schools. The goal mirrors requirements under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, that school districts turn around their lowest performing schools.
Carrie Monica, executive director for Stand For Children Louisiana, said the goal in Drake’s contract is tougher than ESSA in that it calls for those schools to grow by at least five points.
Several Stand For Children members attended the meeting and spoke.
“It is still concerning to us that there are so many schools where kids are not learning on grade level,” said Joslyn Kelly, a parent in the group.
Another parent, Geovanni Felton, has five kids, three still in school. She spoke about problems her daughter, who is a junior at Belaire High School, has been having.
“I end up having to take off from my job to go to the school just to get a response from the administration," Felton said.
Another person, Dadrius Lanus, spoke. Describing himself as a member of the groups Move BR and Leadership for Educational Equity, Lanus laid into Drake, saying he’s spoken with principals who hardly ever see Drake on their campuses. Lanus also criticized the board for renewing Drake’s contract before school performance scores for the 2016-17 school year have been released.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “It’s no longer time to make any excuses.”
Drake took the criticism in stride.
“They are preaching to the choir,” he said. “We do agree that the schools need to be better and we are working on that right now.”
Drake was appointed parish schools superintendent as a well-respected educator who'd spent a decade leading Zachary, the state's highest-ranked school district. Before running Zachary schools, Drake spent most of his career in East Baton Rouge Parish schools as a teacher and later an administrator. He served as principal of Tara High in Baton Rouge from 1996 to 2002.
Warren Drake once again has earned a favorable evaluation from the East Baton Rouge Parish S…
He landed the superintendent job in East Baton Rouge Parish with a unanimous vote after being one of 10 applicants and the only person interviewed for the job.
Drake's time running the state's second-largest school district has often been tumultuous.
His most high-profile success has been persuading the state to return control of Istrouma High School to the school district and then last month reopening the school after a $24.1 million renovation.
Academically, Drake's first year saw growth in almost all academic indicators, but year two saw declines at many schools.
A key new performance goal in his contract is to improve three to five schools, but Drake said he plans to go beyond that. He noted that the school system is coming up with plans for 29 schools, all with D and F grades, that will include hiring an outside consulting firm to work closely with school officials to improve all of them.
As far as submitting a balanced budget, Drake came in with a plan in 2015 to get to a balanced budget in two years by cutting about $30 million in spending. He had made about $13 million in reductions when the August 2016 flood happened. Since that, the school system has had to pay upfront a lot of money, almost $40 million, to make repairs and has only gotten back about half of that so far from flood insurance and FEMA reimbursement, he said.
Drake said he’s cautioned board members that he can recommend big cuts to get to a balanced budget quickly but it will likely affect things they hold near and dear.