by Will Sentell and Faimon Roberts
Jefferson Parish Superintendent Cade Brumley is among those who have expressed serious interest in succeeding state Superintendent of Education John White, officials said Tuesday.
Brumley, who has held his current post for the past 22 months, leads Louisiana’s largest school district and his name has surfaced repeatedly in early talks about finding White’s successor.
A committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which will make the pick, on Tuesday approved a tentative timeline for filling the job.
The aim is for a four-member working group to recommend one to three names to the full board in March or April. The full, 11-member panel would then likely make a pick from those contenders.
At least eight votes are needed to hire a superintendent.
White’s resignation is effective March 11.
On Tuesday, Brumley said it is an honor for his name to be mentioned.
“Right now, I’m focused on our continued improvement for 51,000 Jefferson Parish students,” he said in a text message.
BESE President Sandy Holloway, of Thibodaux, said she understands there is interest in the post from candidates both inside and outside of Louisiana.
“But there is no set person,” Holloway said. “We have not discussed at all who is that potential person.”
The search is the first of its kind in at least two decades.
In the past, superintendents were unofficially appointed by governors, then hired by BESE.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has three appointees on the board.
However, the other eight BESE members were elected with the backing of business groups and are expected to differ with Edwards and traditional public school groups on the need for sweeping changes in public schools.
Brumley, former president of the Louisiana Association of Superintendents, is seen as closer to traditional public school groups than those who back charter schools, rigorous teacher evaluations and other changes. He is former superintendent of the DeSoto Parish school system in northwest Louisiana.
Last May, voters in Jefferson Parish approved a 10-year property tax hike that raises about $29 million per year to boost pay for teachers and other employees.
Brumley helped marshal business leaders and teachers unions to convince voters to endorse the plan.
The increase, combined with another $5 million in cost savings enacted earlier, increases starting teacher salaries from about $41,000 per year to about $46,000, the second highest in the New Orleans area.
Brumley was mentioned as a potential White successor even during his days leading DeSoto Parish schools.
Those whispers only grew louder when he took over the state’s largest and most diverse district in Jefferson Parish in March 2018.
Since moving to Jefferson, he has engineered some significant changes, including expanding the parish’s Spanish-language offerings for new arrivals, changing some traditional middle schools into K-8 schools and reorganizing the central office.
Improvements in the classroom have been less dramatic. The system’s grade remains a C in the state’s rating system, but there have been upticks in key metrics such as graduation rate, college credits earned and grade-level proficiencies.
Several Jefferson Parish School Board members said Tuesday they were not shocked Brumley’s name was in the mix for the state job — “I can’t say it surprises me,” said one. Several said they wouldn’t stand in his way if he gets the nod from BESE.
“I’m hoping he decides not to go, but I wish him well if he does,” board member Larry Dale said.
Mike Faulk, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said the next superintendent should carry the same qualifications as a district superintendent, including a set time as an administrator. BESE voted to waive that requirement for White and his predecessor.
“The future success of schools and school systems is at stake,” said Faulk, former superintendent of the Central school district.
BESE leaders hope to hire a search firm in February, post and advertise the job and spell out the deadline for applications.
Holloway said the firm will screen candidates, perform background checks and review resumes.
The four-person work group, led by Kira Orange Jones, of New Orleans, will conduct interviews with three to five finalists before sending up to three to the full board.
The aim is to have the new superintendent on the job in time for confirmation by the state Senate.
The 2020 legislative session ends June 1.