Tatman, Smith selected to lead EBR Board

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Newly elected East Baton Rouge School Board President David Tatman, right, shakes hands with  Tarvald Smith, center, after a Thursday night vote by the board that saw Smith come up a vote short for the position.. Smith was able to win enough support to remain vice president. At left is the board's general counsel, Domoine Rutledge, and behind Tatman is Superintendent Bernard Taylor.
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Newly elected East Baton Rouge School Board President David Tatman, right, shakes hands with Tarvald Smith, center, after a Thursday night vote by the board that saw Smith come up a vote short for the position.. Smith was able to win enough support to remain vice president. At left is the board's general counsel, Domoine Rutledge, and behind Tatman is Superintendent Bernard Taylor.

David Tatman was elected by his peers Thursday night as president of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, beating fellow member Tarvald Smith in a 6-5 vote.

Smith, however, managed to keep a leadership position on the board, winning a second term as board vice president in a 7-4 vote over Evelyn Ware-Jackson.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Tatman said. “We have a great board, and we are working together.”

Smith said he’s content to stay vice president and looks forward to working with Tatman.

“I think he and I are on the same sheet of music and will work hand in hand to keep the district intact,” Smith said.

Tatman runs a consulting firm, The Tatman Group, which counts several governmental associations as clients; Smith is a self-employed lawyer.

The vote marks the end of two years as president for Barbara Freiberg, who opted not to seek another term.

Tatman received the same six votes Freiberg earned when she was named president in January 2011. Both were elected in fall of 2010, two of six new members elected then. Five of the six new members earned the endorsement of a political action committee affiliated with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. Joined by veteran board member Jill Dyason, they have constituted the dominant voting bloc on the board.

Before Thursday’s vote, Freiberg offered a tearful goodbye.

“We’ve been successful in putting together initiatives that have made a real difference in the lives of children,” Freiberg said.

Tatman then gave Freiberg a bouquet of flowers and the audience offered her a standing ovation.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor complimented Freiberg, saying he’s worked with seven board presidents during his three stints as superintendent and that Freiberg “leads the pack.”

“I don’t know anyone who does it with as much style, grace and leadership,” Taylor said.

Board members Connie Bernard, Dyason, Craig Freeman, Freiberg, Tatman and Ware-Jackson voted for Tatman to serve as board president, while board members Jerry Arbour, Randy Lamana, Vereta Lee, Kenyetta Nelson-Smith and Tarvald Smith voted for Smith.

Those voting for Tarvald Smith as vice president were Bernard, Dyason, Arbour, Lamana, Lee, Tarvald Smith and Kenyetta Nelson-Smith, while Ware-Jackson, Freeman, Freiberg and Tatman voted for Ware-Jackson for the position of board vice president.

Other seen as possible challengers to Tatman, namely Arbour and Lamana, opted not to seek the job.

Arbour, who served as president from 2008 to 2010, said earlier this week that he is instead pursuing a spot on the board for the Council of Urban Boards of Education, an urban-focused arm of the National School Boards Association. He said he wanted Lamana to run for board president instead.

Lamana had said he’d be open to taking the job, but said he changed his mind as Thursday’s meeting started and decided to throw his support behind Smith instead.

Tatman said he wants to give board members more opportunities for leadership, more advance information from school staff, and he also wants the board to consider shifting back to a more traditional committee structure.

Since 2009, the board has had a “committee of the whole” that meets on the first Thursday of each month, in which all 11 members consider all the issues that previously were dealt with by a handful of committees that met on different nights.

Tatman said he also plans to hold a School Board retreat soon and plans to ask members when they would be available for such a retreat and what issues they’d like to discuss.

Editor’s Note: The story was modified at 9:45 a.m. to reflect Advocate staff writer Charles Lussier wrote the story above, not Greg Garland.