School stock

Advocate file photo

Starting Tuesday, people interested in who should replace outgoing Superintendent Warren Drake to run the East Baton Rouge Parish school system will get three chances to speak their minds publicly at a series of community forums scheduled throughout the month.

The forums will be led by an Austin-based search firm hired in October at a cost of $25,000 to help find the person who will take over the state’s second largest school district when Drake retires in June after five years at the helm.

JG Consulting is gathering public input at the forums to help it craft a customized job profile that reflect what people in Baton Rouge want in a school superintendent.

“The true intent of the questions is to incorporate everyone's voice into the job profile, and we do that in a very systematic way,” said James Guerra, the search firm's founder as well as its president and chief executive officer.

The profile will be part of the job application, which Guerra said he expects will go live in January. Through the spring, the firm plans to narrow down the pool of applicants to a set of finalists to present to the board. The new superintendent would start work this summer.

Here is the community meeting schedule, each of which is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. and expected to last 60 to 90 minutes:

  • McKinley Middle, Tuesday
  • Glen Oaks High, Dec. 9
  • Woodlawn High, Dec. 17

In addition, Guerra and two other members of his search team plan to hold a series of hour-long private meetings through Wednesday with various stakeholder groups that have an interest in public education, including the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and teacher unions.

Guerra said he’s trying to meet with and talk to as many people as he can before the Christmas break. He said he’s given out his cell phone number already to people all over town.

“We know that there is significant interest in this opportunity at all levels,” Guerra said.

The firm has also posted online a short survey for anyone else interested in chiming in.

Among other things, survey-takers are asked to rate the work experience they regard as most important in the next superintendent. That would include such areas as finance, administrative experience in a comparable school district, background in teaching and school leadership in Louisiana, experience in working with high-achieving students and a track record of achievement with all groups of students.

Guerra said finding someone with the right mix of job experience is key.

“We pay attention to the depth of experience and longevity,” he said.

Guerra and his team have already spoken individually with all nine School Board members, the individuals who will select the next superintendent.

“The board has been very wonderful to work with,” he said. “The communication has been terrific.”

Guerra started the firm in 2014 and says it has since been involved in at least 80 different searches. Guerra, the principal consultant for the search, started in education in 2003, largely in sales positions for private companies that work in public education.

The other two members of his team are school leaders:

  • Patricia Linares, the firm's chief search officer, is a retired top administrator with the Ft. Worth Independent School District in Texas and briefly served as superintendent there.
  • Alton Frailey, senior search consultant, has worked as superintendent in four districts. He has spent the past 19 months as interim superintendent in the small Nacogdoches Independent School District in Texas. His longest tenure, nine years, was with the large Katy Independent School District in suburban Houston from which he retired in 2016.

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