East Baton Rouge Parish School Board members expressed few concerns Thursday with a draft job application for anyone interested in becoming the next superintendent, but members of two local education groups did.
“I was really disappointed to not see the word equity. Equity was the number one issue in our constituent survey,” said Kris Lewis, chair of the nonprofit South Louisiana Coalition for Education. The trait ranked the highest in their survey, he said, was to have a superintendent who will “prioritize equity for every student including issues of resources, discipline, funding and special education."
Kita Tatum Brown, a member of the pro-charter school parent group Stand For Children, said her organization has done its own survey, talking to parents with children in Baton Rouge public schools, and identified a different top concern for the next superintendent.
“The No. 1 issue is support for struggling schools,” said Brown, who said she transferred a child of hers out of a low-performing Baton Rouge school.
The proposed job application was developed by Austin-based JG Consulting, the search firm the School Board hired in October to find someone to replace outgoing Superintendent Warren Drake.
The board accepted JG’s work, but a few board members said they may have suggestions for improving the document.
James Guerra, the search firm's founder as well as its president and chief executive officer, urged board members to email any suggested changes by Monday. That will allow his team to make any rewrites in time for the Jan. 16 regular board meeting, he said.
If the board approves it, JG plans to go live the next day with the application and continue accepting résumés through Feb. 16.
JG's proposed application includes a one-page list of characteristics and qualifications desired in the next superintendent, as well as a one-page verification form on which applicants are asked to check off on 12 statements where they attest to such things as not being convicted of crimes or being the subject of past job investigations. The firm also plans to ask applicants for a letter of interest, a résumé, a list of references and college transcripts.
No one on Thursday questioned the nine traits the firm listed as desirable, a list that includes having a track record of success in public education and being an “open, approachable, and ethical leader.”
But the two groups that spoke out Thursday wanted more.
Lewis said SLCE, which is made up of Baton Rouge educators, many of them who began teaching via the group Teach For America, held several meetings where it settled on five traits it wants in the next superintendent. It then developed a survey, which has generated about 200 responses and is still live, to rank them.
Stand For Children took a different approach to its survey, which found the top concern is lifting up the Capital City’s lowest performing schools. Members went in person to 1,000 homes of registered voters who have children in public schools.
JG Consulting has also spent the past several weeks attempting to figure out what Baton Rouge residents want in the next superintendent.
The firm held 27 private meetings over a 15-day period in December, either in person or via conference call. Those meetings included prominent local groups such as Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Together Baton Rouge, as well as national organizations such as Chiefs for Change and the Milken Foundation.
The search firm also held community forums last month at McKinley, Glen Oaks and Woodlawn high schools, and it collected 419 online surveys.
In a short report detailing what people said, the firm boils down the most common responses, broken down by board members, school staff and members of the community.
Board members told the firm they want:
- An experienced leader who has a strong working knowledge of Louisiana school accountability and laws.
- A leader with teaching and administrative experience, though board members are "open-minded to a nontraditional leader.”
- Someone familiar and experienced in "a district or large, complex organizational with similar challenges.”
Guerra said the 419 online surveys completed were more than in other searches the firm has conducted, but board member Dadrius Lanus called it a small number. He urged more people to fill out the survey before Jan. 16.
“Help us spread the word,” Lanus said. “This is not just our search, this is everyone in this room’s search.”
JG Consulting plans to narrow the pool of applicants to the top 10 applicants, triggering finalist interviews with the ones the board likes best. The firm's schedule calls for selecting someone by April, enough time for that person to start working in July after Drake retires.