St. John the Baptist School Board appoints new superintendent following concerns from public

Published 12:27 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Reserve — In a meeting on Monday, the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board held open interviews with two finalists for the role of school superintendent. Ultimately, the board appointed Dr. Cleo Perry as the district’s new superintendent with a vote of 9 to 2.

The meeting drew a significant audience, with the public expressing concerns about the perceived lack of transparency in the superintendent selection process. The meeting room reached full capacity as final interviews were conducted with Perry and Jason Beber. Neither candidate had superintendent experience before applying for the position in St. John Parish.

Board members questioned Perry and Beber on various topics, including their plans for addressing the district’s underperforming special education scores, potential involvement in future board actions and commitment to school safety, among other topics.

St. John the Baptist Parish Schools have not had a long-term superintendent since Kevin George departed the district during the summer of 2019.

The initial search process was restarted in late 2019 and culminated with the hiring of Dr. Lynett Hookfin in 2020. Dr. Hookfin led the district for just under two years before resigning in May 2022.

Rebecca Johnson was appointed interim superintendent following Dr. Hookfin’s resignation. Johnson was officially hired as superintendent in December 2022, and she notified the School Board of her resignation on July 21, 2023.

During the most recent search process, Kendria Spears held the title of interim superintendent.

Perry conveyed his intention to stay in St. John the Baptist Parish as long as the district welcomes him. Following the vote, Perry outlined his straightforward approach.

“To listen, learn, and lead,” Perry said. “I want to spend the first few months hearing perceptions of the district, meeting the teachers in the parish and the students, having a conversation to understand the challenges, but also understand their needs.”

Perry, emphasizing his experience in serving marginalized and underserved communities, expressed a commitment to transforming schools positively.

Dr. Cleo Perry (Photo credit to Monique Roth.)

Perry joins from East Baton Rouge Parish, where he served as the Executive Director of School Leadership and Development since 2018.