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Orleans Parish School Board Inches Closer to Choosing a New Superintendent

The Orleans Parish School Board is one step closer to choosing a permanent superintendent after nearly two and a half years without one at the helm.

At a meeting on Tuesday, the board, which operated all of the city's public schools before Hurricane Katrina but now only directly runs half a dozen traditional public schools and oversees 14 charter schools, voted to ask two of its last three candidates to return for final interviews next year, the Times Picayune reported

This may be a sign that things are about to change for a board marked by frequent discord among the members. In another positive development for the Orleans Parish board, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School in the city's Lower Ninth Ward, voted last week to return to the board's purview, becoming the first of all eligible charter schools to choose to do so since that option became available. (Education Week chronicled the Dr. King Charter School over the 2007-08 school year, its first year back in the Lower Ninth Ward, which was devastated by the flooding aftermath of Katrina.)

Charter schools that meet certain benchmarks can decide whether to continue to operate under the oversight of the Recovery School District, which now consists only of charters after closing the last of its traditional public schools in May, or return to Orleans Parish.

The final two candidates to run the Orleans Parish schools are Debbra Lindo, a former superintendent in the Emery Unified School District in California, and Henderson Lewis Jr., the superintendent in the East Feliciana district, a rural school system in Clinton, La.

Lindo's experience includes stints in Palo Alto Unified School District in California as the director of secondary education; College Track, a national nonprofit; and Oakland Unified, where she served as an area superintendent. Lewis Jr. worked as a principal and director of academics and instructional technology at Algiers Charter Schools Association in New Orleans before becoming superintendent of East Feliciana. He also serves as a member of the St. Bernard Parish School Board.

The two, along with Agnella Katrise Perera, a third candidate who did not proceed to the final round, met with representatives from both the Orleans Parish School Board and the Recovery School District. (The Times Picayune posted all three applications.)

The newspaper reports that it appears that there are enough votes for any of the candidates to get the job.

Candidates must receive five votes. In August, the last time the board was this close to choosing a superintendent, the members could not garner a supermajority of five votes to choose between the two finalists. They decided to continue with the search.

Lindo and Lewis will return in the new year to meet with the public and present a work plan, according to the paper.

Tuesday was a busy night for the board. Members voted to settle a special education lawsuit filed in 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center that alleged that students with disabilities were illegally disciplined and underserved by the city's charter school system. The details of the settlement were not made public.

The board also voted to sue the Recovery School District over the RSD's plan to reopen shuttered high schools. In October, the board passed a resolution indicating that it, not the Recovery School District, had the authority to open new schools in the city.

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