Superintendent search narrows

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 31, 2001


LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board met in executive session Thursday night to review the eight applications for the superintendent position that will come available at the end of the school year. The applicants included four St. John Parish residents and four people from outside of the area, including one from out of state. Two of the eight were disqualified because one came in after the deadline and one did not meet the criteria, said School Board President Gerald Keller. The six remaining applicants are Stephenie Watkins of Vacherie, a national literacy coach for McGraw Hill Publishing Co. and former St. John Parish school system director; Michael Coburn of LaPlace, principal of Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School; Dr. Diane Brown of LaPlace, director of special education for the St. John Parish School System; Alfred Donaldson of Reserve, director of human resources for the St. John School System; Dr. Juanita Haydel of Luling, administrative assistant to the superintendent for the St. Charles Parish School System; and Dr. Donaldo Batiste of New Orleans, executive director of curriculum, instruction and professional development for the Orleans Parish School System. Though Keller said he had hoped there would be more applicants, he is was happy with the caliber of those who applied. “Not quantity, but quality,” he said. Keller said he knows several of the applicants personally and they all have excellent administrative experience and good backgrounds with professional growth. “They’re good people,” he said. “At least four or five of them would fit right in. If we could pick five, we’d pick five,” he said. According to Keller, the board looked at all the applications, discussed how the interviews would be conducted and came up with a time frame in which to have interviews completed. Interviews will be conducted April 10 and April 12, beginning at 6:30 p.m., in closed sessions. Batiste, Brown and Coburn will be interviewed the first night, and Donaldson, Haydel and Watkins will get a chance to present themselves on the second evening. The board will let each applicant give a 20-minute presentation, then the board will question the candidate for 30 minutes. Board members will meet April 19 to select the finalists. “How many finalists? It could be one or two or six,” said Keller. If the board narrows it down to one it will select the new superintendent that night. If not, members will meet again April 26 to decide. “It will be very interesting,” said Keller. “It will be interesting to see what happens. We want to give each of them a chance to represent themselves. Then we can begin narrowing it down.” The school board would like to have the new superintendent in place by May, before current Superintendent Chris Donaldson retires at the end of June. After many special sessions to discuss the superintendent search, the board decided not to hire a professional firm and to conduct interviews on its own. The position was advertised in the major papers in the state, and the applicants were given several weeks during which to apply for the position.