WBR School Board interviews second candidate for superintendent

Superintendent finalist has La. roots

John Jackson, the second of four finalists interviewed for the West Baton Rouge Parish schools superintendent position, told the School Board on Monday he would relish the opportunity to return to the state where he grew up.

Jackson, 58, is currently the administrative liaison for the University of North Georgia. He holds degrees from McNeese State University and LSU.

In his pitch to replace David Corona, who retires in July after 10 years with the parish school system, Jackson highlighted a list of accomplishments spanning his more than 30 years in public education.

The board questioned Jackson publicly for 30 minutes before finishing the interview in executive session.

According to his application, Jackson served for four years as school superintendent for the Oconee County School District in Watkinsville, Georgia, after previously serving as the school district’s assistant superintendent for three years.

Jackson retired from the Oconee County School District in 2012.

He also headed the Greene County School District in Georgia as superintendent for four years after serving as its assistant superintendent for a year in 2000.

Jackson told the board that under his leadership the Oconee County School District saw all-time highs for college achievement tests and the district maintained a graduation rate above 90 percent.

During his tenure at Greene County schools, Jackson said, the district’s graduation rate jumped by 19.2 percentage points over a four-year period — from 45.2 percent in 2002 to 64.4 percent in 2005.

“I have served in every level of administration,” Jackson said. “I’ve proven I can work with people and bring them together to get results. There’s a synergy here (in West Baton Rouge Parish) that’s necessary to have a good school system. There’s a lot of potential here, but there’s always room for growth.”

Jackson stressed community outreach and fiscal responsibility as two important job duties for a superintendent. He highlighted his ability to avoid layoffs for full-time employees with Greene County schools during the recent economic recession as a demonstration of his management style and problem-solving abilities.

“You have to involve your people in the solutions,” he said. “We looked at our numbers … and as teachers left through attrition, we tried to slim our staff by pushing our class sizes up. We met with principals one-on-one. We had to do some furlough days. They preferred sharing the pain rather than laying people off. We tried to hold on to our full-time employees, and we were successful.”

The School Board is scheduled to interview Cynthia Ourso, elementary supervisor for the West Baton Rouge school system, on Tuesday; and Zachary High School Principal Wesley Watts on Wednesday.

The board already interviewed Frances Annette Mire, the school district’s associate superintendent of human resources and staff development, last week.

The board hopes to appoint a new superintendent by July, before Corona vacates office at the end of the month.