WBR narrows list of superintendent candidates to four

The West Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Wednesday narrowed to four the pool of potential candidates vying to become the parish’s next school superintendent.

The board selected the finalists after meeting in executive session for nearly an hour to review applications and resumes of eight applicants presented by the scouting firm B.W.P. and Associates.

Before meeting behind closed doors, the board accepted from the firm the names of three additional applicants who have expressed an interest in the superintendent post.

Last month B.W.P. and Associates submitted a search report to the school district with the names of the top five candidates in its superintendent search.

The board narrowed the list of candidates during it regular meeting Wednesday through a ballot process.

Board President Jason Manola asked board members to submit the names of four individuals they wanted to interview for the position. The top four vote getters in that exercise moved on to the next round in the selection process.

The finalists for the position are:

  • Frances Mire, associate superintendent of human resources and staff development for West Baton Rouge Parish Schools, who holds degrees from LSU.
  • John Jackson, administrative liaison for the University of North Georgia and former superintendent of the Oconee County School District. He holds degrees from McNeese State University and LSU.
  • Cynthia Ourso, elementary supervisor for West Baton Rouge Parish Schools, who holds degrees from LSU.
  • Wesley Watts, principal at Zachary High School, who holds degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and McNeese State University.

“We’ll probably interview them within the next two to three weeks—possibly as early as next week,” Manola said after Wednesday night’s meeting.

Manola said the community will be able to interact with candidates during possible meet-and-greet functions. He said a portion of the interviews will be held in public forum while some aspects will be conducted in executive sessions.

The School Board is seeking a replacement for current Superintendent David Corona, who is retiring from the school system in July.

Corona has served as West Baton Rouge’s School Superintendent for 10 years.

In other business Wednesday, the School Board unanimously approved Corona’s request to implement a $830 across-the-board pay increase for all the school district’s full-time employees. The pay hike will take effect July 1.

Corona told board members the salary bump will help make the parish more competitive with surrounding school districts.

“We’re about $2,000 behind East Baton Rouge Parish, but I think we have a better working environment,” he said during Wednesday’s meeting. “In 2006, we started seeing an exodus of good teachers leaving the parish because we weren’t being competitive.”

The superintendent said he also wanted to reward the employees for their excellent work during a trying school year.

“The 2013-14 school year has been … a stressful school year for our employees,” Corona said in a prepared statement. “It has been so because of the continued transition to Common Core state standards. Our employees accepted the challenge of improving academic outcomes for our children with a vengeance.”

Jared Gibbs, supervisor of business services, said the district’s part-time employees will also see an increase in pay. He said their increase will be a percentage of the $830 per employee bump, based on the number of hours they work.