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Baker High School, Friday, August 11, 2017, in Baker, La.

After 30 minutes behind closed doors, the Baker City School Board on Tuesday picked three finalists, including its current interim superintendent, to invite back for interviews as it searches for the next superintendent of this small suburban Baton Rouge school district.

They were among eight applicants seeking to run the school district of more than 1,100 students. The last superintendent, Herman Brister Sr., abruptly resigned in September after five years at the helm.

De’Ette Perry, who has been interim superintendent since Jan. 1, will be interviewed, as will Tamara Johnson, a Central Office administrator for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, and Calvin Nicholas, who until recently served as principal of East Iberville Elementary and High School in Plaquemine.

The interviews, which are to last two hours each, are scheduled for Saturday, April 24. The board plans to pick its next superintendent from the three finalists at its May 1 meeting.

All five board members voted to invite Perry and Johnson for interviews, while three of the five wanted Nicholas to be interviewed. A fourth applicant, Timothy Scott, who works as an instructional coach in Baker, earned two votes, but the board decided to interview only the top three applicants.

Johnson, Nicholas, Perry and Scott were all recommended for interviews by search consultant Michael Faulk.

Faulk, a former superintendent himself and the executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said that only six of the eight applicants were eligible for the job. He said, after doing research, that he ended up excluding from consideration applicants Clifford Wallace, a former principal of Advantage Charter Academy in Baker, and Terence “Terry” Hayes, a former school superintendent from McLean County, Kentucky.

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The other two applicants who failed to earn Faulk’s recommendation were Carlos Lee, an assistant professor of professional practice in the LSU School of Education, and Curt Green, a school improvement coach for the Mississippi Department of Education.

Perry has been with Baker since it broke away from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system in summer 2003. She started as principal of Baker Heights Elementary and has held a succession of Central Office jobs in Baker, most recently as the district’s K-12 instructional supervisor.

Perry has 31 years of experience in education, starting with 11 years as a classroom teacher in Baton Rouge. She has a doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

During her 21 years in education, Johnson has worked in Zachary and for the Louisiana Department of Education. She has spent the past five years as an executive director for school leadership in the East Baton Rouge district, leading an overhaul of the district’s alternative schools. She got her start in 1999 as a schoolteacher in Baton Rouge. She has a master’s degree in education from Southern University in Baton Rouge.

Nicholas has worked in Baker before, serving as assistant principal of Baker High from 2013 to 2015. From 2015 until he submitted his retirement notice last October, Nicholas had been principal at the high school at East Iberville.

A former football star, Nicholas has had a 31-year career in education. He earned a doctorate in education in 2013 from the now-shuttered Argosy University, a national, for-profit school.

He made news in September 2015 when he was fired from Scotlandville High, where he’d recently taken over as principal, for using a stick to break up a student fight. He later won a lawsuit for wrongful termination.


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