As of Tuesday afternoon, the West Baton Rouge School Board is preparing to make a decision that will affect the parish’s education system for years to come.
On Wednesday, according to school board president Jason Manola, the board plans to vote for a new superintendent for the WBR School System.
Last week, the board completed the last of their four interviews of candidates for the superintendent position.
“We interviewed the candidates in public for about 30-40 minutes, then we interviewed them in executive session,” Manola explained Tuesday morning. On, Wednesday we’re going to go back into executive session and discuss each of them and how we feel about them, then we’ll come back in to regular session and we’ll vote on the superintendent – hopefully we’ll have a nomination at that time.”
The candidates the board interviewed were:
• Dr. John Jackson – Retired superintendent of Oconee County School District in Watkinsville, Ga., and current administrative liaison for the University of North Georgia.
• Frances Annette Mire – Associate Superintendent of the Human Resources and Staff Development for the WBR Parish School System.
• Cynthia Ourso - Elementary Supervisor of West Baton Rouge Parish Schools. Ourso was the principal at Cohn Elementary from 1998-2003.
• Wesley Watts – Principal at Zachary High School since 2004. Watts began his career as Dean of Students at Central High School in 2000.
Manola said that WBRW School Board members took part in each of the interviews and evaluated each candidate. He said that Wednesday, July 18 (after the West Side Journal’s deadline for press), the board will further evaluate the candidates in executive session and will likely make a decision on who the next leader of the school system.
“We’re looking for a leader,” Manola said. “Someone who can continue with the progress that we’ve made through the last 10 years and continue to push us forward, and move us even further.”
Manola said that because elections for school board members will be held later this year, the longest contract the board will be able to extend to the candidate of their choice will be less than three years.
“The longest contract that we can offer in the state of Louisiana is two years outside of the expiration of the current sitting board’s term,” Manola explained. “So, the longest contract we can offer right now is two years and five or six months – then after that time, we can renew it.”
Current superintendent David Corona, who is retiring July 31, said that choosing the next superintendent is the most important decision the school board has ever made, or will ever make.
“That’s the number one thing that they are elected to do in actuality, is to hire the best person that they feel will lead this system on a day-to-day basis,” Corona said. “I have full confidence, regardless of who they pick, it’ll be the right person to lead this system.”
Manola said that the board members have their work cut out for them, but he’s also sure that their choice will be a fair one that has the best interests of the parish at hand.
“We’ve got four quality candidates. It’s going to be a tough decision for the board, but we just got to make the best decision based on who we think is the right person who can lead us and take us to the next level,” he said.
Corona agreed, saying that the candidates are very strong and that he believes whoever is chosen for the position, will do an outstanding job.
“Each one brings something a little different to the table, but each one of the four can do this job,” he said. “Our school board has been outstanding in drawing the line in terms of being policymakers and letting us run the day-to-day operations of the system.”
Corona said that until his official retirement on July 31, he will do everything in his ability to make the transition for the next superintendent a smooth one.
“Any decisions that I need to make, (the new superintendent) will have to live with, that person will certainly be included,” he promised. “I will make it my business to make sure that person … their thought process is included in that decision making.”
Corona said that he is proud of West Baton Rouge Schools, and he is grateful to be associated with such a system the past 10 years.
“I’ve worked for 43 years, and the last 10 years here have been the most rewarding professional years of my life,” he said. “I’m grateful to everybody who I work with and I’m very grateful to those school board members who brought me here and who have kept me here.”