2 applications received for St. John Parish superintendent

Published 4:07 pm Friday, December 9, 2022

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RESERVE — Two applications were received for superintendent of St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools. The School Board will proceed with interviewing each candidate beginning at 4:30 p.m. Monday, December 12 at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School in LaPlace.

One of the applicants was Rebecca Johnson, who has served as the interim superintendent in St. John Parish since Dr. Lynett Hookfin’s departure in Spring 2022. The other applicant is Dr. Esrom Pitre, who currently serves as a principal within the St. Landry Parish School System.

School Board legal counsel Courtney Joiner confirmed that both applicants met the requirements of the job application for superintendent.

Advertisement for the position was conducted November 2 and 9 in L’OBSERVATEUR, The Advocate and the Times-Picayune.

The names of the applicants were announced during a School Board meeting held Thursday night at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School in LaPlace.

While there is no legal requirement to interview candidates for superintendent, Joiner advised the board to proceed with the interview process.

“There have been instances where school boards have advertised and the only applicant was the current superintendent. There’s no need in those circumstances to interview anyone because you already have an active, permanent superintendent,” Joiner said. “That is where that rule originated, and it was just a relic of an older time. We are not recommending that the board hire a superintendent without holding interviews. Also, there was a misconception that someone will be hired tonight. That is false.”

The School Board voted to interview both applicants on December 12. Each applicant will have a 10-minute opening statement, followed by questioning from School Board members and a closing statement.

Since interview questions may require Board members to discuss the character or competence of the interviewees,  the Board may enter into executive session in accordance with Louisiana law.

It was determined by random draw during the meeting that Johnson will be interviewed first.

Before becoming interim superintendent, Johnson most recently served as director of federal programs and assistant superintendent for the St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District. She has also served as a school support specialist for the Louisiana Department of Education, as an ESSA Executive Coordinator, and as a principal and assistant principal in the Lafourche Parish School District for more than 10 years. She began her career in education as an elementary and middle school teacher.

Dr. Pitre’s LinkedIn profile states that he has led the transformation of two low performing, high poverty schools. At Donaldsonville High, he helped increase the graduation rate from 67% to 89% and moved the school from a ‘D’ to a ‘B’. Prior to working in St. Landry Parish, he served as a principal in the East Baton Rouge and Ascension Parish. He has also served as executive director of Athlos Education and as a professor of educational leadership at Southern University, Xavier University and University of Houston.

The selection timeline approved by the St. John Parish School Board with a vote of 6-4 in October calls for a permanent superintendent to be named this month, in advance of the newly elected School Board being installed in January.

Six of the 11 incumbents to be involved in the superintendent interview process— Charo Bossier-Holden, Debbie Schum, Shawn Wallace, Albert “Ali” Burl III, Sherry DeFrancesch and Nia Mitchell-Williams — will remain on the School Board for the next four-year term.