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Two Years on, Orleans Parish, La., Still Without a Permanent Superintendent

In a report this month, the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University  cited the absence of a permanent superintendent in the Orleans Parish school district as one of the major issues of governance that impeded progress and one of the reasons why charter schools that were eligible to fall under the OPSB's purview had declined to do so.

It's been two years since the Orleans Parish School Board—which ran six traditional public schools and chartered 16 charter schools in the 2013-14 school year—has had a permanent superintendent.

There was a glimmer of hope that things would change this week, when the Orleans Parish school board was set to decide between two candidates. But the School Board meeting on Tuesday ended without a new leader in place, and the district is now back to the drawing board with its search, much to the chagrin of many residents and parents who have become frustrated with the process, according to The Times-Picayune.

The final candidates this time around were Kriner Cash, a former Memphis superintendent, and Edmond Heatley, a former superintendent in Chino, Calif., who ran the education system in the Caribbean island of Bermuda.

Board members could not reach a super-majority of the five votes needed to hire and fire a superintendent. Four members agreed on Cash; three refused to vote on either, The Times-Picayune reports.  

The unending search is not the result of a lack of interest. In a story on the board's Aug. 19 meeting,  The Times-Picayune said that 63 candidates had expressed interest in the position, and nine new candidates—including educators from California, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada—had applied since mid-June.

(Even more candidates may be interested, but Louisiana's public records law allows the names of applicants to be made public. Many applicants, naturally, may not want their employers to know that they are job-hunting.)

The years-long search has been hampered by board infighting along the way and disagreement on exactly what the members want in a superintendent, despite spending thousands of dollars to engage consultants.  

In the interim, the district is run by the finance director, Stan Smith, who took over when the last permanent superintendent resigned in June 2012. The Times-Picayune noted that Smith may be the longest-serving interim superintendent in the city's recent history. The paper also had a great recap of the city's recent superintendents and their—often rocky—tenures.

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