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Orleans Parish District Chooses New Leader After Long Search

Finally, Orleans Parish school system has a new superintendent. 

The board voted unanimously Tuesday night to choose Henderson Lewis Jr., the superintendent of Louisiana's East Feliciana school system and a school board member in St. Bernard Parish, as its new superintendent. 

As The Times Picayune noted, the vote came "after 2 years, 203 days and almost 21 hours." The vote also comes as the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches later this year and the city reexamines its complex school governance structures.

The Orleans Parish school board, which once ran all the schools in the city, now has control over only half a dozen regular public schools and 14 charter schools. The Recovery School District, which took over nearly 80 percent of the schools after Katrina, oversees the majority of the city's public schools, which are all independent charters. 

Orleans Parish came close to choosing a new superintendent last August, but the board members could not muster a super-majority of five votes necessary to pick a new leader. 

Lewis beat out Debbra Lindo, a former superintendent of the Emery Unified School District in northern California.

It is unclear when Lewis will begin the job. He must still sign a contract and undergo a background check, according to The Times Picayune. 

Lewis has ties to New Orleans: Before becoming superintendent in the East Feliciana school system, he worked as a principal and director of academics and instructional technology at the Algiers Charter Schools Association. Algiers is part of the Recovery School District. 

Both Lindo and Lewis presented their plans for leading the district to the community last week.  Lewis' 180-day plan for the school system—Establishing Orleans Parish Schools as the Premier Portfolio School District in the Nation—includes a focus on governance, improving student achievement and community relations, as well as the district's operations and finances.

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